Smoking and second-hand smoke have been identified by the Surgeon General to be a significant cause of preventable disease and premature death. As part of its comprehensive approach to health and wellness, the Altoona Regional Health System Board of Directors has approved a tobacco free policy that will take effect Jan. 1.
There are two components of the policy that have been designed to create a safer environment for patients and a healthier overall workforce:
First, there will no longer be designated areas on hospital property for smoke or smokeless tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, by employees, physicians, volunteers, contractors, vendors, patients or visitors. Hospital property means all owned or leased hospital buildings and services, including those away from the main hospital campus, including but not limited to parking lots, hospital equipment and buildings owned or leased by Altoona Regional.
Secondly, Altoona Regional will no longer hire people who use tobacco products. All applicants for employment will be informed of the tobacco-free standard and advised that as condition of employment Altoona Regional will complete a pre-employment screening for the presence of tobacco use. If potential employees fail the tobacco-use portion of the screening, they will be notified that they will not be hired and told they may reapply in 90 days.
By implementing this policy, Altoona Regional joins a nationwide trend that includes almost 70 Pennsylvania hospitals with tobacco-free medical campuses.
“We recognize and understand this will be a challenging transition, but strongly believe it is the right thing to do for our community,” said President/Chief Executive officer Jerry Murray.
Altoona Regional will support employees wishing to quit or reduce their tobacco use by offering cessation courses through a trained specialist. Patients who smoke will be invited to speak with their physician or nurse about options that are available while they are in the hospital.
“Research has proven that tobacco use is hazardous to a person’s health, and as a health care system our goal is to model healthy behaviors because we care about the health of our employees and the health of our community,” Murray said.