It’s not an uncommon scenario: You’re walking down the street when you pass through a dark, gray cloud—on the other side there’s a smoker taking an afternoon cigarette break.
For the non-smoker, such exposure to cigarette smoke creates an irritating experience; smoking is perceived as not only an unattractive habit, but an offensive one that when trapped beside a lit cigarette in an enclosed bar or in a smoky restaurant seems more than inconsiderate. For someone who is medically deemed a “never smoker” it can be hard to relate and have empathy for those, who despite millions of dollars spent nationally on anti-drug and smoking campaigns (many children of the 80’s will remember “Just Say No”), continually light up. It seems threats of cancer, chronic lung disease, respiratory failure and disability at death have no bearing and the American Council for Drug Education estimates there are 47 million Americans still smoking today. To break it down further, nearly one quarter of the adult population and 30 percent of adolescents smoke cigarettes. The problem is the consequences of smoking are far from immediate and because 13 is the average age of first time users, the “that will never happen to me” attitude prevails.
While we know we alone can’t eradicate smoking, we are making an effort to do our part and promote lung health among our patients and employees. Four years ago Saint Joseph’s Hospital implemented a Tobacco-Free Policy that’s still in place today. That policy mandates the campus is smoke and tobacco-free, both inside the buildings and on the grounds. Management implemented the policy to establish a campus representative of health, cleanliness and ultimately to create a standard.
This July, a Saint Joseph’s task force has launched a “Non-Smoking Awareness” campaign to remind employees, patients and visitors that smoking is not allowed anywhere on the Saint Joseph’s campus. If you’re a regular to Saint Joe’s you will see new signs around the hospital and violators are receiving policy reminder cards. “We don’t want to slam everybody for their addiction,” said Dr. Paul Scheinberg, Saint Joseph’s Medical Staff Chief, “We want to remind them gently that you cannot smoke here but at the same time let them know we do have resources to help.”
Dr. Scheinberg is a member of the Atlanta Pulmonary Group and has served as an advocate of the Tobacco-Free Policy. He is hard to miss these days, as he is recognized around Saint Joseph’s Hospital for the large, “Smoking Stinks” button pinned to his lab coat. It’s a conversation starter more than anything, and as one of the hospital’s strongest advocates for not smoking, Dr. Scheinberg emphasizes that in spreading the message, “There has to be an amount of sensitivity,” said Dr. Scheinberg, “we don’t know their story and we must have empathy.”
To help smokers quit, Saint Joseph’s Preventive Cardiology Department offers smoking cessation classes that address smoking behaviors, thoughts and feelings. The Knock Out Nicotine Addiction program consists of four weekly, 75 minute group sessions. Program sessions begin on the first Wednesday of each month and meet once a week. For more information, please contact Eileen Ruban at (678) 843-7633.
If you have a success story for quitting, we’d love for you to share it with our readers. We’re also on Twitter as SJmediaroom and will continue tweeting facts about smoking through July.
Marketing Intern, Saint Joseph’s Hospital