UPMC ban could form habit
By Eric Heyl
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013, 11:51 p.m.
Quitting smoking is easy. All smokers eventually do it.
Admittedly, some give up cigarettes sooner than others. But even those who wait until their caskets are closed eventually have the opportunity to brag about kicking the habit, though obviously not to a sizable demographic.
That's just one reason why UPMC's heavy-handed attempt to ban smoking among its employees, even during workday breaks, is wrong. The policy, which the monolithic medical conglomerate plans to implement next year, is absurdly intrusive, a chilling example of corporate totalitarianism and utterly indefensible.
UPMC has prohibited smoking on its campuses since 2007, and that policy is above reproach. One of the last sights someone facing a serious cardiothoracic procedure wants to see before going under anesthesia is the surgeon pulling aside his mask to take a quick puff on a Pall Mall.
(The last sight probably would be the surgeon picking up the scalpel he dropped on the floor while downing a shot of bourbon. That's especially true if the surgeon tells the scrub nurse, “Aw, we don't have to disinfect this again. Five-second rule, right?” But I digress.)
The new policy isn't about UPMC restricting ashtrays in the operating room. It's about UPMC telling its surgeons, staffers and volunteers that they can't smoke during the day, even if they leave a UPMC facility — even if they only want to furtively fire up a cigarette beside the Dumpster behind an animal shelter.
In a letter to its workers, UPMC said smoking will be banned for the entire workday, which includes lunch and unpaid breaks taken on or off a UPMC site. That's probably disturbing news to UPMC's Oakland workers, especially those who were convinced they were on their own time during recent lunch hours they spent perusing adult magazines at Gus Miller's Newsstand.
UPMC has not said how it plans to enforce such a nearly unenforceable ban, particularly with employees who take breaks away from its smoke-free facilities. Presumably, the health system will use surveillance teams similar to the infamous smoke squads that once swarmed through World War II-era Germany. That occurred when cigarettes were rationed and Hitler decreed that only top Nazi officials could consume the nation's leading brand, Lucky Reich.
In similarly fascist fashion, UPMC has threatened that repeat violators of the policy could face termination. People could be fired for engaging in an unhealthy but entirely legal activity, on their lunch breaks, perhaps blocks removed from the workplace.
This policy is as invasive to smokers as open-heart surgery. Before going under the knife and having their personal freedom removed next year, UPMC employees should seek a second opinion on its legality. If UPMC can get away with this anti-smoking measure, you can bet it's mulling further restrictions on workers' habits.
You can bet a Big Mac ban is on deck.
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Upper St. Clair man dies in crash of experimental airplane at Washington County Airport
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Seton-La Salle again ends GCC’s season in PIAA tournament
- Robert Morris dominated by Mount St. Mary’s in NEC title game
- Mars Area School Board rejects drilling proposal
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- District college notebook: Pitt sophomore infielder Wolsonovich fuels upset of UNC
- Vincentian boys win, sets up showdown with Lincoln Park
- Memo confirms VA Pittsburgh officials knew of Legionella threat long before made public