Smokers satisfy habit elsewhere

Samantha Munsey

Despite the UA Health Network’s attempts to make its campuses a tobacco-free zone, smoke breaks may not be over just yet.

On Jan. 1, the network implemented a new policy that prohibits the use of tobacco both inside and outside its facilities, including the University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus, South Campus and affiliated clinics.

“Everything is going really well,” said John Marques, vice president and chief human resources officer for the network. “We have had a good response from our staff and there has only been a few situations when people visiting the center were found smoking and told about the new policy.”

The ban is in place to prevent patients at a medical facility from being exposed to secondhand smoke, and also to encourage smokers to make better health decisions, Marques said.

On top of the policy, the center has also created a campaign to help employees, family members and friends quit smoking. The Quit and Win Tobacco Free Living Program developed by the Department of Family and Community Medicine is one of the options created to help people quit.

“We have had a number of people enroll in this program, and that is really going well,” Marques said. “So I think, all in all, we are getting the response we were looking for.”

However, while the university campus medical center is a tobacco-free zone, the Arizona Health Sciences Center, located directly behind it, is not. Laurie Soloff, evaluator for Outreach and Multicultural Affairs for the College of Medicine, said because the center works under a different employer than the university, its side of the campus was not impacted by the new policy.

“The challenge right now is that the policy only affects the medical center side,” Soloff said. “There are a number of areas on the Health Sciences side where smoking has been ongoing and continued, if not increased, by the amount of employees who moved here because they are not able to smoke where they used to.”

One of the smoking hotspots on the center’s side of the campus, which also houses the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health and Nursing, is the Hippocrates Courtyard, located by the Arizona Health Sciences Library.

“We have a statue of Hippocrates in that plaza, and all around him there are cigarette butts,” Soloff said. “My concern is really the secondhand smoke exposure because it is a serious health hazard to all of us. Having to walk through clouds of smoke to get to a building is a problem.”

Elizabeth McClellan and Kelsey Mesch, juniors in the College of Nursing, said they usually spend time in the plaza in between classes and notice people smoking there regularly.

“The ban is not really effective when we are sitting out here trying to enjoy the day and all you can smell is cigarettes,” McClellan said. “But there is nothing we can really do about it.”

Currently, the center is in the process of creating its own tobacco-free initiative that will be similar to the the medical center’s.

“It is really important that we have the same kind of requirement for our side as well for all of the same reasons,” said Cathy Nicholson, director of human resources at the Arizona Health Sciences Center. “Though we have been working on this for quite some time, our process takes a little longer because we are a university.”

The proposal, which is currently available for public comment, will go to the UA for final approval in the beginning of March. If approved, the center will implement the ban as soon as possible, Nicholson said. But until then, places like Hippocrates Courtyard will be free for smokers to use.

“I think nurses and doctors should be role models to their patients, so when they smoke they are setting a poor example,” Mesch said. “We should have a smoking ban on our side because we are learning how to be future doctors and nurses here — we need to be that better example.”