This week, residents of east Sacramento awoke to a newly painted array of anti-smoking murals right next to Mercy General Hospital.
Painted in bright, cheerful hues, they bear witty slogans – "No butts please," "Don't make a ash of yourself," and "Mercy have mercy" being a few.
The three 14-foot strips of art are a last-ditch attempt by Jim and Joanie Ferry, who live on 41st Street right by the J Street hospital, to discourage smoking outside their home.
Since the hospital went completely smoke-free at the beginning of the year, there has been an exodus of smokers from the hospital to the convenient – and now painted – short ledge outside the Ferrys' home.
Joanie Ferry is allergic to smoke and tried repeatedly to ask the smokers to stop. "Sometimes they say I'm sorry and leave. But often they are rude and indignant," she said.
The Ferrys said Mercy Hospital has not been able to address the situation to their satisfaction. The no-smoking signs that the Ferrys had first put up outside their home were ripped off.
Finally fed up, and after months of trying to work with the hospital, Joanie Ferry took matters into her own hands.
She hired Robert Gordon, an artist with a flair for pop art-like cartoons, to paint her walls. Her vision was simple: anything that could send an anti-smoking message without being offensive. Gordon obliged with sketches and slogans; the artwork was complete in two days.
Phyllis Baltz, Mercy Hospital's interim president, said in a statement: "We do not have control over and cannot enforce what happens on a public sidewalk."
She added, "If employees or visitors wish to take a smoke break, we encourage them to do so on the sidewalk in front of the facility and not impact our neighbors."
The Ferrys beg to differ.
"Patients on wheelchairs, and even patients with IVs are wheeled out here to smoke," said Joanie Ferry.
"She isn't just being a nag. It is a real issue," said Gordon, the artist. "People sit on her private property, smoke, break things. She's even gotten cussed at."
Joanie Ferry's solution to the problem is for the hospital to reinstate its original designated smoking areas. "They say people shouldn't smoke on their property. Well, why should they smoke on mine?" she said.