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MHA and Member Hospitals Promote and Expand Tobacco Cessation Efforts for Great American Smokeout 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012 is the national Great American Smokeout, a day to encourage tobacco users to kick the unhealthy habit, and celebrate individuals and organizations that encourage those efforts.  This year, hospitals across Massachusetts, supported by the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA), continue their efforts to promote tobacco cessation both within their facilities and in the community at large as they mark the second year of their voluntary statewide campaign, HEALING Inside & Out: Massachusetts Tobacco-Free Hospitals in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to eliminate the use of all tobacco products on hospital campuses.

 

To date, 71 percent of MHA’s member hospitals are tobacco free.  In addition, MHA and at least five member hospitals have also instituted policies to no longer hire tobacco users. 

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, and hospitals are in a unique position to serve as role models on this vital public health issue,” said MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas. “By going tobacco free on their campuses and even further by declining to hire tobacco users, hospitals send a strong signal of commitment to combat the ill health and extraordinary cost of care associated with tobacco use. MHA is proud of its role to assist Massachusetts hospitals to voluntarily take such important steps forward.”

Many hospitals across the state are highlighting their tobacco-free status on November 15th and offering additional information about the tobacco cessation support and programs they offer. Here’s some highlights:

• Vanguard’s MetroWest Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital have taken the next step in Vanguard’s Health for Life initiative to ensure a healthier workplace, and as of November 1st the hospitals will not hire workers who use tobacco or nicotine products. They join Lawrence General Hospital, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cooley Dickinson Hospital and its satellite locations, and Heywood Hospital in no longer hiring tobacco users. MHA stopped hiring tobacco users January 1, 2011.

• Brigham and Women’s Hospital will post information about the Great American Smokeout on their Facebook and Twitter sites, and share this link about the hospital being tobacco free. BWH will also launch a smoking cessation success story in print and video today.   
                                                  
• Boston Children's Hospital and its satellite locations have been tobacco free since November 2009, and in the past year the hospital has expanded its efforts to support healthy lifestyles and a healthy workplace, including a focus on tobacco-related policies. Boston Children’s now conducts inpatient and primary care outpatient screenings of patients’ personal and environmental exposure to tobacco – counseling and tobacco cessation referrals are now part of every primary care visit. The hospital has also expanded existing tobacco cessation programs for employees. Last spring, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), Boston Children’s implemented a free nicotine patch giveaway for employees, in addition to ongoing resources provided through the hospital’s Employee Assistance Program.

Hospitals are also working to expand tobacco-free zones around their facilities:

• Tufts Medical Center went tobacco-free on April 16th of this year, partnering with Tufts University’s adjacent Boston campus, essentially creating a several-block tobacco-free zone in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The kick-off included the Director of the BPHC as well as speakers from the Medical Center, the University and the community.

• In addition to Heywood Hospital’s new policy against hiring tobacco users, in December 2011 the Gardner Board of Health enacted a Tobacco Free Zone surrounding the hospital. With the passage of this new ordinance, smoking and other tobacco use are now prohibited not only on the Heywood campus, but for 200 feet beyond the property, creating a tobacco-free safe zone surrounding the hospital. The Worcester City Council has also adopted an ordinance, sponsored and supported by Saint Vincent Hospital that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of the entrances to healthcare facilities.

• In response to ongoing concerns voiced by patients and staff, Boston Children’s recently implemented new, increased signage on the sidewalk in front of the hospital, and removed a low-standing wall where smokers frequently gathered. These efforts have resulted in a marked reduction in individuals smoking in front of the hospital’s main entrance.

• DPH celebrates the Great American Smokeout at the State House again this year, highlighting the Commonwealth Care program’s replication of MassHealth’s existing tobacco cessation benefit for its members. For more information about the MassHealth and CommCare tobacco benefit, click here.

• Visit MHA’s HEALING Inside & Out: Massachusetts Tobacco-Free Hospitals website for more information, including the list of Massachusetts hospitals on the Tobacco-Free Hospitals Honor Roll.

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