Last November, Mercy Tiffin Hospital promoted the Great American Smokeout with a press release in which some alarming statistics were listed: Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Tobacco use causes cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. Each year, an estimated 438,000 Americans die as a result of smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.
For each person who dies from a tobacco-related disease, about 20 more are living with a tobacco-attributable illness. In Ohio alone, it is estimated the cost of medical-related expenses and lost productivity is $9 million. Nationwide, the figure is $167 billion.
As people consider ways to improve their lives during the coming year, it may be a perfect time for those who still are using tobacco to take steps to give up their habit. Financial savings, improved health, disease prevention and safer, cleaner surroundings are some of the obvious personal benefits.
And how about setting a good example for youth in the community?
Smokers and business owners were in an uproar when the smoking ban was enacted for bars and restaurants. Although smokers have regarded their behavior as a “right,” Ohio and many other states have recognized the rights of the general public to remain smoke-free in public places.
Also, non-using taxpayers are becoming increasingly concerned about the burden of increasing costs for government programs and health care in general.
Seniors entering care centers will have difficulty finding facilities that allow tobacco, and hospital patients are forbidden to smoke. As companies struggle with the rising costs of benefits for their workers, many employers are giving employees incentives or even mandates to quit.
Some, especially health-related entities, are refusing to hire tobacco users.
In November, a press release came into The A-T newsroom from Action on Smoking and Health. Its headline read “More hospitals refuse to hire smokers.” The article listed hospitals in Massachusetts and Missouri that have added “nonsmoker” to the list of job requirements for their employees. Area hospitals contacted all have tobacco restrictions in place; Fostoria Community Hospital is the only one that will not employ tobacco users.
Cyndi Durham, rural division manager, marketing and communication for Mercy Tiffin Hospital, sent this statement:
“We are a tobacco-free facility, inside and out. No tobacco products are to be used inside Mercy buildings or outside on Mercy property. We have nicotine patches available to assist patients and visitors cope while they are here. Mercy Tiffin does not have a policy about not hiring smokers. We have a smoking cessation program available through cardiopulmonary, by physician order,
for both employees and patients. ”
Nicotine replacement gum is available for those who may need it while on the campus. To learn more about the programs available, call the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department at (419) 455-7186.
“We are here to treat those who are sick and injured,” said Travis Grasley, manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation services. “However, we want to prevent disease, and promoting healthy lifestyles is a key step in this process.”
Respiratory therapist Margaret Schaffter, head of the cardiopulmonary department at The Bellevue Hospital, said that campus also is tobacco-free but smokers may be hired. Inpatients who smoke can receive assistance to make them more comfortable.
“They have an option of the nicotine patches, and we do counseling on how to cope,” Schaffter said. “We have a tobacco treatment specialist on staff. That would be Terry Webb.”
Fostoria Community Hospital, which is affiliated with ProMedica Health System, has been tobacco-free since Jan. 1, 2008. ProMedica will not be hiring any tobacco-users as of this past Saturday. Andrea Scibana, RN, with ProMedica Health System, reported her company issued a press release in November stating its new job application asks candidates about tobacco use.
“If they declare they do not use tobacco but their post-offer screening is positive, they will not be hired. Applicants who declare tobacco use, as well as those who do not pass the screening, may reapply for a position after 90 days,” the release said.
Laura Ritzler, director of wellness for ProMedica, also said the hiring policy does not affect current employees. She said the practice of hiring only tobacco-free employees is an effort “to foster a healthier workforce, as well as to demonstrate to our patients and the community our strong commitment to health and wellness.”
She said patients who use tobacco are educated on the associated health risks and are encouraged to quit during the admission process.
Nicotine patches are available for patients who need them.
“All ProMedica Health System campuses are tobacco-free, indoors and outdoors. This includes our lawns, walkways, sidewalks, parking lots (including inside vehicles), and any other grounds that ProMedica maintains,” Scibana said.
ProMedica Health System also has certified tobacco treatment specialists to provide tobacco cessation treatment for community members including counseling for individuals and/or groups.
Ann LaBolt, community relations representative, said Wyandot Memorial Hospital in Upper Sandusky implemented a tobacco-free campus policy effective July 18, 2007. Restrictions are identical to those of the hospitals previously listed. The policy applies to all
individuals who come onto hospital property, such as employees, doctors, patients and visitors.
“Our respiratory therapy department provides guidance for smoking cessation with respiratory therapist and certified tobacco treatment therapist Beth Riedlinger. She provides one-on-one counseling for folks who are ready to quit smoking,” LaBolt said.