Hospital smoking area shut down by Environmental Health

A designated smoking area just outside Yellowknife’s hospital has been shut down by the NWT’s chief environmental health officer because it is illegal.

Stanton Territorial Hospital had a “100% tobacco free” policy for most of the past decade, barring patients, staff and visitors from smoking anywhere on hospital property, including the parking lot.

But the hospital quietly dropped that policy late last year, installing a smoking area outside its emergency department. In April, the NWT’s health authority – which runs the hospital – told Cabin Radio it was shifting “toward a more patient-centric and harm-reduction smoking management approach on the Stanton campus.”


However, the territory’s chief environmental health officer does not see it the same way.

Less than two weeks after the smoking area’s existence was reported, the hospital has been told to close it down.

Jeremy Bird, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, said by email: “The Smoking Control and Reduction Act (and regulations) prohibits smoking in hospitals or on hospital grounds.

“Due to that regulatory restriction, Environmental Health has asked Stanton to remove the smoking area on the hospital ground, but people are still allowed to smoke outside of the hospital grounds.”

The act’s regulations specify that smoking cannot take place on a hospital’s grounds in the NWT. The law, which was passed in 2019, would have to be changed by MLAs for a designated smoking area to be legally established.


Jennifer Torode, the hospital’s chief operating officer, told staff by email that an “anonymous complaint … led to a subsequent site visit” by Environment Health and a formal order to dismantle the smoking area.

Torode wrote that the hospital would “be working on a challenge to the act.”

“After enforcement action by the chief environmental health officer, [the health authority] has reverted to asking guests and staff to smoke off the property,” health authority spokesperson David Maguire confirmed by email.

Maguire said the health authority will “assess further options that align with our desire to provide a harm reduction approach that also ensures the safety of those in our care.”


He wrote: “We do not have details of what this looks like yet, but we will continue to work on our approach to smoking on the campus within the regulations and requirements that apply to this issue.”

Last month, Maguire said some people with mobility issues had been “travelling quite a distance to get off campus” to smoke, which “presented safety risks and a significant burden to these individuals, as well as staff members who sometimes must accompany them or are smokers themselves.”

The health authority, he said at the time, had decided that “adding barriers … does not stop people from smoking.”