UPMC workers in business of saving lives, so why harm their own by smoking?
By Luis Fábregas
Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Goodbye, smoke breaks.
UPMC, the region's largest employer, will no longer allow workers to smoke during workdays, starting next summer.
Though UPMC campuses have been smoke-free since 2007, those of us familiar with the hospitals typically see plenty of scrubs-wearing workers puff away on sidewalks and street corners. For an organization that promotes health and healthy behaviors, the sight of smokers can be quite conflicting, not to mention unnerving. I can't imagine what goes through a cancer patient's mind when he or she goes for chemo treatment and has to walk past someone blowing out smoke in the parking lot.
Hats off to UPMC for taking on a policy that's certain to bring backlash. When restaurants began doing away with smoking sections, smokers protested and argued their rights were being trampled. Cigarette lovers still find it offensive they can't light up at some bars.
Hospitals are another story. Their employees have a responsibility to set an example and serve as role models for patients and visitors. How can you take treatment advice from a health care worker who puts away a pack a day and wears clothes that smell like an ashtray?
“We are trying to help people recover from sickness or surgery,” Greg Peaslee, UPMC's chief human resources officer, told me. “Having smoke around them is not conducive to improving their medical condition.”
Will UPMC managers follow smokers around to see if they're sneaking a cigarette? Not quite. But if you're openly smoking where you can be seen, you risk being reprimanded in much the same way you would if you broke another hospital policy. That means written warnings, suspension or getting fired.
Across the nation, some of the top health care systems have pushed the non-smoking envelope a bit further. The Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Baylor Health Care System and University of Pennsylvania Health System no longer hire smokers. UPMC won't go that far.
“Were not trying to make a value judgment,” Peaslee said. “We're not saying you're a good person or a bad person by smoking. If you smoke on your own time, and it doesn't impact our patients, why should we ban you from working at UPMC?”
Indeed, a recent piece in The New England Journal of Medicine authored by three ethicists questioned the ethics of not hiring smokers. The authors argued that many hospital patients are treated for illnesses caused by their behavior, including smoking. In other words, they wouldn't just refuse to treat them simply because their smoking caused them to get sick.
Such an argument is fair but disregards a key issue — that hiring policies often send strong signals to those seeking employment. We've known for some time that smoking rates are higher among those who are poor and less educated. One could argue that a no-smokers hiring policy would unfairly target them. But wouldn't it motivate them to quit smoking so they can get the job they need?
UPMC vowed to offer smoking cessation sessions to help employees who want it. They should take the offer. I can't imagine why anyone would want to work in a place that's saving lives when they're harming their own.
Luis Fábregas is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7998 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.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Matt Calvert’s goal in double OT evens series for Blue Jackets
- Pair of Braun homers spells defeat for Pirates
- Penguins’ Gibbons scores twice but leaves with apparent injury
- Two men shot at outdoor party in Chartiers
- Penguins say playoff series against Columbus could fuel rivalry
- Blue Jackets score a franchise first with playoff victory
- Draftees’ longevity key for NFL success
- Roadside reminder: Time doesn’t stand still
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- Biertempfel: Kendall’s book offers inside look at life in majors