Questions & Answers
As the region's health care leader, the largest employer and a strong community member, Southcoast is committed to providing a safe, healthy environment for patients, employees and guests, and to serve as a model of health promotion in the community.
Tobacco use is universally recognized as a bad health habit that leads to negative health consequences and that is counter to Southcoast's mission "to care for the health of our communities."
From a safety perspective, smoking is a fire hazard that has resulted in three fires on Southcoast hospital grounds. Additionally, discarded cigarettes are the main cause of litter at Southcoast.
The majority of our patients, visitors and employees do not smoke. Exposure to second hand smoke is a danger to their health.
In a smoke-free environment, no one is exposed to secondhand smoke; those who are trying to quit smoking are supported in doing so since the "triggers" are eliminated; and Southcoast contributes to the better health of the communities we serve as we lead by example.
- Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illnesses and deaths in the United States; it is the major cause of hospital admissions and re-admissions.
- More than 440,000 people die in the U.S. each year from smoking-related diseases. This is more than all alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroin, homicide, suicide, car crash, fire, and AIDS deaths combined.
- Smoking is the leading cause of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and emphysema.
- Smoking costs the U.S. nearly $150 billion a year in healthcare and other expenses.
- Patients who smoke have twice the risk of wound infection than do non-smokers; are slower to heal after surgery or trauma; and have increased gastrointestinal, prenatal and orthopedic complications.
Providing a smoke-free environment can offer the incentives needed to quit. There are a number of examples supporting the benefits of a smoke-free environment.
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: 26 percent of smoking employees quit smoking.
- Harvard School of Public Health: 27 percent of their smoking employees had quit smoking in first year.
- Johns Hopkins Hospital: 25 percent reduction in the number of employees that smoked. They also had a fifty-one percent reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked during work hours.
How does this policy differ from the previous Smoking Restricted Policy?
Southcoast's previous policy allowed patients, visitors and employees to smoke in designated areas. Effective January 1, 2012, the new policy will prohibit smoking and the use of all tobacco products on all properties or on grounds adjacent to all properties owned or leased by Southcoast Health System, including buildings, grounds, walkways, parking garages and parking lots, in company vehicles, and in personal vehicles while on Southcoast Health System property.
Providing a place to smoke does not support our goal to becoming totally smoke and tobacco free and create a healthier environment for our patients, visitors and employees.
To whom does the Smoke and Tobacco Free Policy apply?
Everyone. All patients, visitors, employees, physicians, volunteers, students, vendors and others providing and receiving services are expected to comply with this policy. There will be no exceptions.
How are we defining "adjacent property?"
By using the term "grounds adjacent to our properties" we are referring to the sidewalks and the streets, extending approximately two blocks from the perimeter of our properties.
As a leading health care provider that promotes health and wellness, we initiated a smoke-free environment. Smoking directly outside our property is inconsistent with our mission and our desire to be a model for our patients and the community in promoting our message of health and wellness. It is important that we act as good neighbors and provide a positive example for our communities.
Can people smoke in their cars?
No. Smoking is not permitted in any parking areas, including vehicles on the properties.
Why ban smoking in vehicles on the properties?
Employees and visitors would be smoking in a confined space and we would be supporting a very unhealthy behavior. Employees would return to work with an intensified smoke odor on their clothing due to smoking in a confined space. This intensified odor can harm certain patients, visitors and employees who have allergies to smoke. Finally, our properties would not be smoke and tobacco free.
We realize the use of tobacco is a personal choice. However, health authorities and other employers also have the right to create a healthy environment for those they serve. For this reason, we ask that individuals refrain from smoking on Southcoast properties.
Why has tobacco use been targeted versus other health risk?
It is due to the tremendous impact smoking has on health care and recovery from illness. Patients who smoke have twice the risk of wound infection and are slower to heal after surgery or trauma. By making our environment smoke and tobacco free we are addressing the number one preventable health risk today.
What is considered a tobacco product?
All tobacco products or products that look and act like a cigarette, used for any purpose are prohibited on Southcoast properties, including but not limited to cigarettes (including electronic cigarettes), cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco).
How are we notifying patients, visitors and the community?
Communication to patients, visitors and the community will be through a combination of signage, emails, publications, local media, and advertising and through appointment reminders. This will help to inform our patients, visitors and the community before they come to South Coast facilities.
Patients will be informed upon admission that tobacco use will not be permitted. Patients will be asked to refrain from smoking during their hospitalization. We will provide our patients with information about resources to help them quit smoking. In the event that a patient is not motivated to stop smoking during their hospitalization and insist on doing so, their physician will be notified.
What happens if a patient wants to leave so they can smoke?
We do not allow patients to leave so they may smoke. For their health and safety, we have created a smoke-free environment and have smoking cessation resources to help them. Our smoking cessation resources have been working well for other patients who smoke and we encourage them to give these resources a chance.
What support is provided to patients who smoke?
Patients are asked not to smoke while in the hospital. Patients who smoke will be offered a variety of nicotine replacement and/or smoking cessation options to help them through their stay. These will include one-to-one counseling; relaxation/hypnosis; and NRT gum, lozenges and other medications.
What support is provided to visitors who smoke?
Information will be available for all visitors who need help getting through a stressful period without nicotine, and we will deal with each guest in a compassionate manner, offering appropriate support on an individual basis.
Southcoast has also taken additional steps to help local residents quit smoking. Our smoking cessation program, Freedom From Smoking (FFS), provides a sense of community support and motivation that help many people reach sensation goals. FFS is open to the community at a cost of $150 per person. We also encourage visitors to discuss smoking cessation options with their physicians.
For more information on FFS, visitors can call the Southcoast Wellness Line at 800-497-1727.
Who can a patient or visitor notify if they see an individual smoking on a Southcoast Health System property?
Patients and visitors are encouraged to notify Southcoast Security to report any individual in violation of the Southcoast 100% Smoke & Tobacco Free policy.