This is in response to "UPMC Smoking Ban to Include Break Time" (July 11): Recent reporting of UPMC's smoking ban expansion missed UPMC's dirty secret. With tens of thousands of employees and visitors currently banned from smoking on UPMC property, where do smokers go? They crowd sidewalks, huddle in doorways of businesses and residences, leaving behind a blanket of butts. UPMC will now reach into employees' private lives with little regard for the public nuisance they cause their neighbors.
Children's Hospital designated the corner of 44th and Calvin streets as a "smoke zone." There, one can find a veritable skid row of smokers crouched on curbs and stoops of private residences and businesses. These are doctors, nurses, expectant mothers and families with children wearing respiratory masks. Nearby, rain-smeared signs posted by the Green Bamboo restaurant plead, "Please Don't Smoke Here." More discreet smokers lurk through our side streets and backyards.
As neighbors close windows to fend off drifting clouds of smoke, complaints to UPMC are dismissed with lip service or directions to call 911. Draining the city's resources with frivolous 911 calls reflects UPMC's sanctimony. Worse than being a taxpayer forced to clean up after UPMC is being a resident forced to confront disruptive smokers throughout the night. They are not to blame. They are told to "just go across the street."
I applaud UPMC for setting high standards for the health and cleanliness of its workplaces. Surely its tax-exempt status bestows the resources to achieve this while recognizing its neighbors' rights to the same. Perhaps this wildly unenforceable new policy will remedy this problem, but I wouldn't hold my breath.