The University of Arizona Health Network Goes Tobacco-Free on Jan. 1

The University of Arizona Health Network’s new tobacco-free policy affects The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus, The University of Arizona Medical Center – South Campus and dozens of clinics across Tucson and Southern Arizona.
The University of Arizona Health Network will ban the use of tobacco products by patients, staff, faculty and visitors both indoors and outdoors at its hospitals, clinics and offices beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
 
To ease the transition to a tobacco-free environment, The University of Arizona Health Network is offering free smoking-cessation treatment to its nearly 7,000 employees and to their dependents. Patients will receive counseling and medications to control their nicotine cravings, and visitors to the hospitals who smoke will be offered free nicotine-replacement gum.
 
“It’s all about creating an environment of wellness” said John A. Marques, SPHR, vice president and chief human resources officer for the Health Network. “We are a health-care institution and it’s clear that smoking and smoking-related illnesses are among the leading causes of death in this country. It makes sense for us to promote a healthy, tobacco-free environment for our staff, patients and their families.”
 
The University of Arizona Health Network’s new tobacco-free policy affects The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus, The University of Arizona Medical Center – South Campus and dozens of clinics across Tucson and Southern Arizona.
Although smoking has been prohibited inside the hospitals for many years, smoking was permitted in designated outside areas. These outdoor shelters will be removed by Jan. 1.
 
“We recognize that this new policy may be hard on some patients and family members who smoke, especially those who are hospitalized here for long stretches of time,” Marques said. “Our intention is to be as supportive as we can while maintaining a totally tobacco-free environment.”
 
Hospitalized patients who smoke will be offered smoking-cessation counseling and medications to help them cope with their nicotine cravings, he said.
 
Patients’ family members and friends who smoke will be offered free nicotine-replacement gum from the hospital pharmacy and a referral to the Arizona Smokers Help Line, which provides counseling and individualized quit-smoking plans in English and Spanish.
 
Employees who smoke may enroll for free in the Quit & Win Tobacco Free Living Program through the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine. The Health Network is underwriting participation in the Quit & Win program for employees and their spouse, child, parent, sibling or significant other. 
 
Quit & Win is a seven-session, one-on-one program that starts with a meeting with a physician to review the smoker’s health and tobacco history and to develop a personalized quit plan. The first visit includes a physical exam and lab tests. The Health Network also will provide customized cessation medications at no charge to employees and their dependents who participate in Quit & Win.
An innovative Helpers Program also is available to employees to teach them how to talk to tobacco users in a supportive, non-confrontational way and encourage quitting. The first week of December, 13 employees and volunteers from across the Health Network were trained as Helpers instructors. These instructors will offer the four-hour Helpers training to other employees and volunteers, helping them gain the knowledge and skills needed to effectively help smokers in the workplace or at home. The Helpers program also is offered as online training.
 
“The Helpers Program emphasizes a non-nagging, non-judgmental approach,” said Family and Community Medicine Professor Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH, who developed the Helpers Program with grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation several years ago. “The program gives people with no medical background the information and skills to help someone else in need.”
 
As an added incentive to help employees quit smoking, The University of Arizona Network provides discounted rates on medical insurance for non-smoking employees.

Dr. Muramoto, who advised the Health Network on its new policy and who has been credited by UA President Gene Sander, PhD, with helping him kick a lifelong smoking habit, said, “Tobacco is a very complicated form of addiction. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to tobacco cessation. There is no one best drug, no one media campaign that will work for everybody. I think The University of Arizona Health Network is doing a good job providing many avenues for people to succeed.”