Smoking ban works at BWWMH

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2005

For almost a full week Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital has been smoke free. On April 1 the hospital put a policy into practice banning smoking from any area on hospital grounds. There is no smoking inside, outside or on the grounds and so far, the response has been very positive.

Mike Marshall, Administrator for the hospital, said everyone has been very cooperative.

“It seems to be going well so far,” Marshall said. “We tried to let our employees know we were going to do it and started talking about last year. We made it known to our employee relations committee that we planned to put it into practice.”

The ban was accompanied by an effort to help employees who did smoke quit. Marshall said they had free programs and supplies in place to help their workers kick the habit.

“We started off with the smoking cessation classes and things of that nature,” Marshall said. “We also offered, free of charge, the first round of patches and some people have taken advantage of that.”

This week in Birmingham a proposal to ban smoking in all public places has gained a lot of resistance. However, the hospital’s ban has been greeted with support and is showing results already.

“It has gone well so far,” Marshall said. “I walk around the grounds everyday and look at the number of cigarette butts on the ground and I don’t see many at all. It may take a while before our visitors know about it and are truly compliant with it, but most everybody understands and has been very supportive.”

Some skeptics may say the move was made to cut out the number of “smoke breaks.” However, Marshall said the move was more health oriented.

“At face value I think a lot of people look at it and say it was about productivity,” Marshall said. “To some degree that is probably true, but the overall reason we are doing it is from a health standpoint.”

Another reason for the move had been a direct impact on employee benefit claims from smoking. The employee benefit package had seen a 20 percent increase recently, which the hospital had paid for. Around 70 percent of the claims leading to the increase have been respiratory illnesses.

The perception put forth by people smoking at a hospital was another reason for the change. Marshall said it puts forth a negative image to have people smoking in front of a hospital.

“The perception is also that it is not a good image to have people outside a hospital smoking,” Marshall said. “It is just not good. So far people have been cooperative though.”

The first week of the ban has been very effective. Marshall said he hopes to see the positive impact continue,