MUSC president responds to complaints about hospital smokers in nearby neighborhood

Tell smokers to move and what do they do? Throw their butts down somewhere else.

Three months after smoking was banned around Charleston’s hospital district dropped butts are so common across the street in Cannon Park that other smokers are appalled.

“I used to pick the butts up but it took up all my break,” said smoker Reggie Cannon, a floor technician in the Dietary Department at MUSC.

Even worse, Cannon said, is that smokers by the dozens are ignoring sand-filled recepticles put in the park as free ashtrays in favor of dropping on the ground. “Lazy. Don’t care,” Cannon said of his fellow puffers.

Smoking in public space around the two hospitals was banned by City Council effective March 1. While medical leaders made the request in the name of separating patients from second-hand smoke, they were also trying to end what had become a routine habit by visitors and staffers littering their sidewalks. Now that mess is in the park and residents don’t like it.

“We didn’t know the beautiful park next door was going to become a smoking lounge,” said Jim Prutting of Halsey Street.

Others have found butts in their yards or are avoiding the park completely.

“I have stopped walking my dog through the (Cannon) park during the day because of the volume of hospital employees generating a cloud of smoke that acts like a barricade to entry,” area resident Sally Smith wrote in an email to MUSC President Ray Greenberg and Roper St. Francis Healthcare CEO David Dunlap.

Greenberg responded to Smith via email.

“I have walked and driven through and around the neighborhood at least three times a day, trying to target break times when employees might be present,” Greenberg wrote. “In all these trips, I have observed only a few individuals in the neighborhoods, although, as you indicate, there tend to be a few congregated on benches in the park.”

Greenberg explained in the email that the medical university originally wanted to include nearby neighborhoods in the smoke-free district, but that those opposed to any restrictions “fought to minimize the size of the district.”