If you live near the hospital district, you probably won't have a lot of smokers puffing away in front of your home anymore.

See, MUSC is cracking down on lighting up. Again.

Last week, Medical University employees got a letter from President Ray Greenberg explaining the revised tobacco-free campus policy. It's pretty much a tobacco-free employee policy.

Earlier this year MUSC and Roper-St. Francis got the city to set up a smoke-free zone around their buildings. And, just as everyone predicted, all the smokers simply walked farther to take their breaks.

Some of them went to Cannon Park, and others just stood on the sidewalks across the street from the smoke-free zone. Yes, some of them in front of private homes and businesses.

Neighbors complained — bet you didn't see that coming. So now MUSC has an even stricter policy.

And some employee are smoking mad. They say the hospital has gone too far, and is infringing on their rights.

No stinkin' badges

It's hard to blame MUSC or Roper.

After all, they are health care organizations. What would you expect them to do? Smoking is decidedly unhealthy.

MUSC, following Roper's lead, says now employees can't smoke on paid breaks, in their cars on hospital property, or while wearing their scrubs or even their name badges.

Basically, they've cut out smoke breaks anywhere.

“We're being respectful to the neighbors,” says Susan L. Johnson, director of MUSC's Office of Health Promotion. “We're asking them not to smoke in their scrubs, or while wearing their badges. It looks bad for a health care organization.”

No argument there. Patients have a right to a smoke-free environment, and it's not unreasonable for them to be concerned if they smell smoke on their health-care provider's clothes.

But you also can't expect employees to not feel like criminals when they are rousted by hospital police while smoking on a sidewalk across the street from the smoke-free zone.

It feels a little like some people's rights are more important than others'.

But smokers should have figured that out by now.

A private ban?

Greenberg's letter says more than 100 MUSC employees have given up smoking as a result of the new policy.

Or the hassling. Whatever.

That's great. At the same time, health care organizations know that smoking is an addiction, and often not easy to break. Some people don't even want to kick the habit.

But it all comes down to whose time you're on.

“They do have a right to smoke, we're not telling them they can't,” Johnson says. “But we have rights, too.”

Johnson says she hopes employees respect the new policy and comply without MUSC having to take disciplinary action.

Ultimately, this all comes down to employment. You know, the government shouldn't be telling restaurant or bar owners whether they can allow smoking in their businesses. That's why citywide smoking bans are baloney.

But when a business — say, a hospital — decides it wants to ban smoking, well it's hard to argue. Even if it does infringe on someone's rights. It's not their property. Everybody has a right to smoke, but unfortunately there is no guaranteed right to a job.

Reach Brian Hicks — who regularly enjoys a cigar or two — at bhicks@postandcourier.com.