Tobacco-Free Hospitals Help Employees, Patients and Visitors Breathe Better

Tobacco-Free Hospitals Help Employees, Patients and Visitors Breathe Better

People who work, visit or receive care at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center can breathe a little easier since the campus went tobacco-free in 2007.

Spots that once were designated for smoking now are places where anyone can go to enjoy a break in the fresh air.

The medical center is among more than 134 hospitals in North Carolina to go tobacco-free as part of the Focus on Hospitals initiative, led by NC Prevention Partners and the North Carolina Hospital Association and funded by The Duke Endowment.

For Bob Parker, vice president of support operations and community health at the medical center, turning the campus into a smoke-free zone also sets an example for the rest of the community.

"In our mission statement, we talk about maintaining and promoting the health of our community," says Parker. "It's important that we provide that kind of leadership, starting on our own campus."

Many Welcome the Change

"About 75 percent to 80 percent of our employees do not smoke," says Parker. "They really celebrated this new policy."

North Carolina is now one of the leading states for tobacco-free hospitals, says Melva Fager Okun, a doctor of public health and senior program manager at NC Prevention Partners. The hospitals are leading the way in changing what Okun calls the "tobacco culture" prevalent in the state.

"Unfortunately, we are still a heavy smoking state, " Okun said. "That's the tragedy we want to stop. Increasing the environments where people can't smoke is a vital part of that."

Support for Tobacco Cessation

At Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, going tobacco-free has included providing ongoing support for those who want to quit. The medical center offers classes, free nicotine patches, reduced prices on quit-smoking medications, educational materials and incentives for employees to stop smoking. Also, patients who smoke can receive free stress kits that include Nicorette gum and educational information on tobacco cessation.

"I feel like we're finally walking the walk," says Lynn Black, manager of the medical center's wellness services. "People come in for patches and give us hugs for helping them to quit. We've really worked to make it easy for employees."

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Lin B. Hollowell III
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