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Wednesday morning, there was no one taking advantage of Twin County Regional Hospital's designated smoking area, a small glass booth beside of the facility that reads “Smoking Booth.”
The only “smoke” was the steam puffing from people in the chilly morning air.
That's a good sign, said TCRH marketing director Martha Cole.
But by 2010, no tobacco use of any kind will be permitted inside or outside of TCRH, including inside vehicles, said a press release issued last week by the hospital.
The initiative also would eliminate designated smoking areas for employees, patients and visitors.
The next step, said Cole, is to link up with neighboring physicians' offices in hopes of creating a smoke-free healthcare trend throughout the Twin County area.
“This is a great opportunity to encourage the commitment of giving up smoking,” said Cole. “And Twin County Regional Hospital believes that it can be a model by taking the step in being a leader in the community.”
Twin County Regional Healthcare is joining hundreds of hospitals and health systems in Virginia, North Carolina and around the nation to become a tobacco-free campus by Jan. 1, 2010.
As part of a growing trend, all surrounding hospitals plan to go smoke free. This includes Wytheville Community Hospital — which has had a smoke-free campus since July — and Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta, N.C., which will join the initiative in January.
There are 60 smoke-free hospitals in Virginia and 1,500 nationwide.
“Our mission is to promote, preserve and restore the health of our community,” said Jon Applebaum, TCRH president and CEO. “As a healthcare organization, we are committed to the health and safety of our employees, patients and visitors.”
Smoking has not been permitted inside the facility or inside the clinics for a number of years. This new initiative will expand the ban campus-wide and also include smoke-free tobacco products.
Although this initiative is not intended to force anybody to quit the use of tobacco products, it is an ongoing way for the hospital to demonstrate its commitment to healthy living. Cole noted that the hospital is giving patients, visitors and employees a 13-month notice of the trend and hopes that employees take advantage of the smoking cessation program opportunities offered through the Wellness Center.
“Informing the public is a very important part of our initiative,” said Cathy Blevins, a registered respiratory therapist and TCRH tobacco-free committee chairperson. “We want to make sure our employees, patients and visitors are aware of our plans to become tobacco-free. We feel strongly of the importance of this initiative and to the improvement of the health of our community.”
Blevins said that less than 10 percent of TCRH employees smoke.
Cessation programs have already been implemented and more are being planned for employees and the community. Patients who use tobacco products will be provided Nicotine Replacement Therapy upon admission if approved by their attending physician.
“We are asking our community members to become our partners in health to make this tobacco-free initiative successful,” encouraged Applebaum.