By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal
HOUSTON – On Thursday, Trace Regional Hospital is going tobacco-free, no ifs, ands or cigarette butts.
Tobacco use of any kind will no longer be allowed inside or outside the hospital or on nursing home or clinic property.
“We have been looking at doing this for almost a year,” said Gary Staten, Trace Regional Hospital administrator. “This was not an easy decision for us, but as health care providers and health care leaders in this community, we felt it was the right decision.”
The initiative will include the elimination of designated areas outside Trace and Trace clinics where employees, patients and visitors are currently permitted to use tobacco products.
“As a health care organization, we are committed to the health and safety of our employees and patients,” Staten said. “We believe we have the responsibility to take a leadership role on this major health issue and establishing our entire campus as tobacco-free firmly supports that belief.”
The hospital studied the law, looked nationwide at hospitals and businesses with similar policies and then looked at the numbers and benefits of this policy.
“If someone comes to the hospital to visit and goes outside to smoke, we are not going to have them arrested to spank their hand,” said Jennifer Higginbotham, respiratory therapist at Trace Regional. “They will be handed a card explaining our policy and making them aware of what we are trying to do.”
Marianne Johnson, chief nursing officer at Trace Regional, said the move will probably affect employees more than visitors.
“As a hospital, we try to focus on the wellness of the community,” said Johnson, who classified herself as a closet smoker. “We need to set an example and need to be leaders.
“Our staff realizes the goal is better health. This will not be easy for some, but we work as a team and we will do this as a team.”
Employees will be handed information on how to quit smoking or help someone quit smoking.
“Our decision to go tobacco-free is not an attempt to force anyone to quit using tobacco products,” Staten said. “Rather, the tobacco-free initiative is a concrete way to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to healthy living.