Hospital to ban odor of smoke on workers' clothes

October 3, 2011 9:19:38 AM PDT
Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria will implement an anti-tobacco policy for its entire campus starting July 1 of next year, expanding the policy put in place two years ago for employees of the women's and children's areas.

The Town Talk reports the policy will prohibit the use of tobacco products by employees while on their shifts, including when they are on breaks. It also will not allow employees to work if their clothing smells like smoke.

"About a month or two ago we sent a letter to all of our associates to their homes," hospital administrator Lisa R. Lauve said. "We sent a letter notifying them that they had a year to make whatever adjustments they needed to make to be able to comply with the policy that would not allow them to smoke during the hours that they work."

Hospital officials are aiming to reduce patients' and employees' exposure to toxins that linger in fabrics from a recently burned cigarette, also known as third-hand smoke, Lauve said. Such toxins present a special danger for the developing brains of infants and small children.

Ideally, Cabrini policymakers would like to see all employees quit tobacco products for good, Lauve said. And the hospital will offer those wanting to quit tools, support and resources available to help them kick the habit.

"Optimally, we would love to help our associates stop smoking for their own health," Lauve said. "We actually have a couple of primary-care physicians that are doing some work in their offices with smoking cessation."

Clinical consultations, habit-focused programs and possibly prescriptions from physicians and practitioners are available to employees looking to drop the pack, Lauve said. Alternatives like nicotine patches, access and information from online resources and support groups are also examples of the tools that will be in place to keep employees tobacco-free.

"We've actually contacted The Rapides Foundation," Lauve said. "We've contacted AHEC (Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center) and everywhere we can to get all resources we can provide to our associates."

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Louisiana, accounting for about 6,500 deaths in the state each year and $1.47 billion in annual direct health-care expenses, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Tax burdens caused by smoking-related government expenditures on the state and national level cost about $644 per household in Louisiana annually.

Those costs do not include health costs caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, smoking-caused fires, smokeless tobacco use or cigar and pipe smoking, according to Tobacco-Free Kids.

One of the goals for announcing implementation of the new policy nearly a year in advance is to give employees the opportunity to pursue quitting options that work for them before the new ban, Lauve said.

Though Cabrini employees complied with a 2006 city ordinance banning smoking within 50 feet of a health-care facility, satisfaction surveys conducted by the hospital have indicated the smell of cigarettes on an employee's clothing and person resonates poorly with patients, visitors and non-smoking employees, Lauve said. That's one of the factors that prompted administrators to put together and implement the new policy.

"It's really a combination of push from our patients and from our associates who do not smoke and don't appreciate working " with the smoke smell," Lauve said.

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