Hospitals go totally smoke-free

All three Mesa County facilities to ban tobacco on their properties

Richard Graham smokes a cigarette as he talks to his wife Ethel in the designated smoking area at Saint Marys Hospital. The couple are at the hospital often because two of their children are frequent patients

Come next spring, Community, Family Health West and St. Mary’s hospitals will snuff out tobacco use.

The administrators of all three hospitals announced Wednesday, the day before the annual Great American Smokeout, that all tobacco products will be prohibited on their property as of March 1.

The bans will cover all of the hospitals’ property, so any kind of smoking or chewing tobacco in parking lots, or even in cars parked in the lots, will be prohibited.

Although smoking has long been associated with cancer, lung disease and other illnesses, hospitals have allowed tobacco use by employees and patients.

“It really is inconsistent” to allow tobacco use at a hospital, said Bob Ladenburger, president of St.
Mary’s, noting he was struck by seeing patients wheeling intravenous poles toward smoking areas.

Prohibiting tobacco use will “help us fulfill our community leadership role to promote health,” said Chris Thomas, president of Community Hospital.

Patients who use tobacco will have access to nicotine patches, gum and other programs designed to help curb their addiction during their time in the hospitals. They’ll be billed, however, just as they would for any other medication, the administrators said.

The ban will go into place in the spring, to allow the hospitals to get patients accustomed to the idea of having no access to tobacco while in the hospital and to work with employees who smoke.

Like patients, employees will be prohibited from using tobacco while at work.

Employees will be offered help quitting tobacco use during the interim.

“Eliminating tobacco use on hospital campuses will improve the care environment and ultimately improve patient care,” said Dennis Ficklin, CEO of Family Health West in Fruita.

Such a policy has been a long time coming, said Dr. Mike Pramenko, a Grand Junction physician.

“One of the impediments to this was social acceptance,” Pramenko said. “That’s changed.”


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