The NSW health minister is standing by a plan to rid cigarettes from hospital grounds by monitoring the number of smokers who disobey no smoking signs.As the Opposition branded the study a "total cop-out", and called for NSW Health's smoke-free policy to be enforced by fines, a spokesman for John Della Bosca's office told the Mercury the problem was in hand.Observational studies - where health service staff will count the number of errant smokers over six to 12 months to see the policy's effect - were only part of the plan, the spokesman said. Defiant smokers vs young cancer patient EDITORIAL: stubbing out smoking at our hospitals "The Government is making sure the smoke-free policy is being implemented and continually evaluated to ensure visitors do not smoke in the hospital grounds."The study is one part of the continual improvement process in achieving smoke-free workplaces," he said. "There are also education campaigns for staff and visitors, and a nicotine replacement therapy assessor in the area health service." Smokers were scarce outside Wollongong Hospital yesterday, after Windang dad Todd Leach's anti-smoking message appeared on the Mercury's front page.Mr Leach told how he had to strap a protective mask on six-year-old daughter Hailey's face to protect her from passive smoke when she went to hospital for post-chemotherapy treatment.Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner yesterday backed Mr Leach's calls for smokers to be fined for disobeying the signs. "That (observational studies) sounds to me like a total cop-out," she said."Why do you need a study? People are either smoking or they're not smoking."If the Government - and the hospital and health (service) - have made a rule about no smoking, they need to enforce it, otherwise they're making a mockery out of their concern for people's health."However, Healthy Cities Illawarra general manager Frank Wallner cautioned against introducing fines now, 16 months after the smoke-free policy started. "I don't think in the early stages of adopting a health policy there's any point in fining people," he said."That just creates animosity and I think there's better ways of approaching the issue." Mr Wallner suggested studies to monitor the policy's effect could be completed within four months, followed by enforcement. It was important smokers be directed elsewhere if they left hospital grounds. He praised Mr Leach for highlighting the issue, as did a spokeswoman for South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service. "We hope that when the community read the story about Hailey and her father they will also get behind the issue and help us to encourage people not to smoke on local hospital grounds," she said."Our staff do an excellent job in asking people not to smoke ... it is a difficult job and often incites angry and abusive response."