HOSPITALS in Gwent could soon see harsher penalties for those caught smoking on site – including in the car park and outside the building entrance.

The Welsh Government revealed it is considering introducing legislation to prevent smoking in hospital grounds after pressure was put on by anti-smoking charity Ash Wales.

Legislation could mean on-the-spot fines for people caught smoking in or outside hospitals in Gwent.

Aneurin Bevan Health Board already has a ban on smoking in and around its hospitals - and last year employed two anti smoking officers who were telling people to stop smoking on hospital grounds.

But charity Ash Wales said “people are flouting the rules”.

Jamie Matthews, of the charity, said: “The issue is that there are individual bans in place in most hospitals but they are not working. There are clear violations.

“What we are calling for are regulations so people know exactly where they stand.”

The Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s Smoke Free Environment Policy orders all its sites and premises to be kept completely smoke free with restrictions including all areas up to the boundaries.

The ban on smoking also includes all car parks and vehicles parked on Health Board property, as well as outdoor seating areas and walkways. The policy stated “any person wishing to smoke must first leave the ground”.

Ash Wales, an organisation which aims to reduce and eventually eliminate tobacco use, has spoken with the Welsh Government to try and urge them to introduce laws against smoking in hospitals.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said the issue of smoking in hospital grounds was included in their recent consultation on the ongoing Public Health White Paper.

He said: “When asked about legislating to prevent smoking in hospital grounds, responses were generally positive and we are considering how to take this forward.

“We will continue to work with health boards to support them in their efforts to ensure their grounds are smoke free.”

Mr Matthews, for Ash Wales, said the wider issue is around passive smoking. He said: “When you are a patient or a person visiting someone in hospital, you don’t want to have to walk through a wall of smoke to get in.

“The Public Health Bill is a good opportunity to put it in law. I think the Welsh government is heading down that road.”

The Minister for Health and Social Services will make a statement on the Public Health Bill when it is published in the summer.