Local hospitals set to prohibit smoking

By Erica Mitchell

UK Chandler Hospital and UK Good Samaritan Hospital, along with six other Kentucky hospitals, have announced plans to go completely smoke-free by next November.

Eight hospitals have formed the Tobacco-free Healthcare Collaborative, which is working to implement policies that include the elimination of outdoor designated smoking areas by Nov. 20, 2008.

The collaborative is in conjunction with the next “Great American Smokeout,” an annual event held by the American Cancer Society. On the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation are challenged to use less tobacco or quit for the day.

“This policy has been gaining ground in Kentucky and nationwide,” said Elizabeth Cobb, health care policy director for the Kentucky Hospital Association. “Many hospitals are finding that it is important it take a leadership role in decreasing exposure to tobacco and improving the health care of their community.”

The tobacco-free policies will prohibit smoking at hospital campuses and other premises, including medical office buildings, physician offices, outpatient centers, laboratories, clinics, and other owned and leased facilities.

The Kentucky Hospital Association will serve as the project manager for the collaborative and will assist the hospitals in planning and implementing the new policies.

The initiative is not an attempt to “force” anyone to quit using tobacco products, but rather a way to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to healthy living, said a news release from the hospital association.

Along with the policies against smoking, participating hospitals will offer smoking cessation classes and nicotine-replacement therapy products. Increased efforts by the participating hospitals will aim to help employees, patients and community members reduce their tobacco use, according to the news release.

The participating Kentucky hospitals are the Bluegrass Community Hospital in Versailles, Bourbon Community Hospital in Paris, Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Georgetown Community Hospital in Georgetown, Meadowview Regional Medical Center in Maysville, St. Joseph Healthcare in Lexington, UK Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, and UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington.

Lincoln Nunn of Corbin, Ky., smoked in front of Chandler Hospital, standing with his wife and son Saturday after his son’s baby was born. He said the new policies would be inconvenient for smokers, but they might supply an extra incentive to help him quit his own addiction to tobacco.

“I don’t have the gumption or the willpower to quit on my own,” Nunn said. “When they outlaw smoking, I’ll quit.”

However, some smokers do not see any positive development in the policies.

“I think we have the right to smoke. I don’t think we should be secluded from society,” said Connie Buffington of Stanton, Ky., who was smoking in the enclosed outdoor smoking area behind Chandler Hospital. She added that with the new policies, she would have to find a different place to smoke.

“I would have to walk out in the middle of the street.”

Tammy Hulette of Versailles said that if non-smokers don’t want to be around smoke, they should stay away from designated smoking areas.

“They should ban non-smokers from coming out here,” she said as she stood in the smoking area. “Smokers should have a place to smoke; we have the right to smoke.”

Hulette, who was at the hospital Saturday because her brother was having surgery, added that hospitals are the most likely place a person would need to smoke, because of stress.

The state of Kentucky has a 29 percent smoking rate, the highest in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 400,000 deaths due to tobacco use annually in the United States; about 8,000 of those deaths are in Kentucky. Secondhand smoke kills about 50,000 non-smokers nationwide each year, according to a report by the U.S. surgeon general.