June 6, 2008

Smoking ban goes into effect Sept. 1

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Beau Kelly, M.D.

Smoking ban goes into effect Sept. 1

Vanderbilt Medical Center is banning smoking on campus by staff, patients, visitors and contract employees, effective Sept. 1.

“We should support employees who will find it difficult, but as a matter of national and local health policy, the time has certainly come to make health care facilities smoke-free inside and out,” said Eric Neilson, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine.

“This is a health issue. I don't have an opinion about what people do in their own homes, but people working in health care shouldn't be smoking in the workplace,” Neilson said.

“There is no question that smoking is a profound and significant modifiable risk factor for numerous diseases,” said Paul Sternberg, M.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. “VUMC is in the business of promoting good health and prevention of disease. Meanwhile, Tennessee performs very poorly on leading health indicators. We're failing on public health. It's imperative that we set the standard as an institution, and that means taking some weighty steps, including banning employee and visitor smoking.”

The proposed ban follows a series of increased restrictions on campus smoking, beginning in 1989 with a ban on indoor smoking. Designated outside smoking areas were established on campus in the 1990s, and enforcement of the designated areas has been stepped up in recent years.

The University has also increased support for employees who want to quit smoking. Through the Dayani Center and the Occupational Health Clinic, smoking cessation counseling and group sessions are free for all Vanderbilt employees and all beneficiaries of the employee health plan.

“Studies show that workplace bans are a significant impetus, and that we can expect perhaps a third of our employees who smoke to quit the habit altogether within two years of a ban,” said Joel Lee, associate vice chancellor for Communications.

“Smoking is known to be about the riskiest common behavior out there for development of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Now we're seeing an emerging trend for smoke-free hospital campuses. It's time for a more concerted policy at VMC, one that puts the Medical Center more clearly on the leading side of this vital public health issue,” Lee said.

For smoking cessation group sessions and counseling, call the Dayani Center at 322-4751, or the Occupational Health Clinic at 936-0955. Both programs also offer over-the-counter and prescription medications as aids to help smokers quit.