ShareThis Page
News

Pittsburgh Mercy Health System latest to go tobacco-free

| Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, 9:40 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mercy Health System on Sunday became the latest health care provider in the Pittsburgh area to go tobacco-free.

The ban covers nearly every tobacco- and vapor-based product available, from cigarettes to snus to e-cigarettes, and affects not only patients, but employees, even when they are on designated work breaks.

“The word ‘health' being very important to us, we needed to be concerned about the people we serve and their families, but also the people who work for us and their families,” said Mark Rogalsky, manager of prevention services for the health system. “It goes along with our drug-free workplace policy.”

There are about 1,700 employees at the health system, which doesn't have an acute-care hospital, but offers physical and mental health care to adults and children. Mercy hospital, Uptown, is part of UPMC.

Pittsburgh Mercy is preceded by Allegheny Health Network, which with its seven hospitals went smoke-free Jan. 1.

“Their policy applies to the individual; our policy applies to the campus,” said Reese Jackson, CEO of Forbes Hospital and administrative head of AHN's smoke-free program.

AHN employees could theoretically leave campus to smoke, but separate policies covering dress code prohibit them from returning to work with clothes that smell like smoke, and many neighboring properties also are smoke-free, Jackson said.

AHN employees or their dependents who are covered by the company's health plan can get nicotine-replacement products such as nicotine gum or lozenges for free if prescribed by their doctor, he said, and those products are allowed on the grounds if patients or visitors need them.

“We try to be mindful of the addiction that nicotine can be,” Jackson said.

UPMC went smoke-free in 2007 on its grounds and adjusted its policy to include employees using tobacco on breaks last summer.

The policy appears to have affected the number of smokers on UPMC campuses, said Gloria Kreps, UPMC spokeswoman. In December 2012, 11.2 percent of employees said they smoke. In 2013, the number was 9.8 percent.

Kreps said UPMC hires smokers and asks that they comply with the policy. They offer help quitting, with nicotine replacements, online information, text messaging tips and in-person assistance.

UPMC employees had about one year to prepare for the shift to a tobacco-free policy, Kreps said.

Rogalsky said the complete ban follows up on steps in 2012 to take a Pittsburgh Mercy Health System residential behavioral health facility smoke-free for patients.

At the time, he said, the patients were arriving out of acute-care settings where they hadn't been allowed to smoke.

“We were carrying over the same thing,” he said.

The health system will offer smoking-cessation services to any of its employees who smoke and still will hire smokers, Rogalsky said. The health system is not just worried about people's exposure to first- and second-hand smoke, but third-hand smoke — the residues that are left on hands and clothing after tobacco use.

He stresses the economic benefits to those who say they want to quit.

“One employee saved enough money over eight months to put a down payment on a car,” he said.

Staff writer Matthew Santoni contributed to this story. Megha Satyanarayana is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7991 or megha@tribweb.com.

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.

click me