IU Health has discovered what many of the nation’s hospitals and healthcare providers have come to understand: They must be the tip of the spear in tobacco cessation and other broad public health initiatives.
First, as Ladd points out, it’s a patient safety issue. Second-hand smoke is dangerous. The stinky residue contains carcinogens that can prompt allergic reactions or asthma attacks among patients, their families, and coworkers. A British study last year attributed about 600,000 deaths globally each year to second-hand smoke.
Second, healthcare is a labor-intensive field. More than 14 million Americans are employed in healthcare. IU Health has 24,000 employees statewide. If a large sector of the economy that is dedicated to the well-being of others cannot take the lead controlling a huge societal cost driver for employee healthcare, who will?
Finally, healthcare sets the example for the rest of the nation to follow. It’s hard to lecture patients about the dangers of smoking, when they look out your hospital window and see a half-dozen caregivers in green scrub suits sparking up on the loading bay. Nobody should smoke -- particularly anyone who works in healthcare. They can’t plead ignorance.
All the hospital and health system executive I have spoken with who back aggressive anti-smoking policies for employees also point out that their systems offer smoking cessation classes and other help for employees who want to quit.
Health plans have medical alternatives, such as the patch.