Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Smoking Ban to Include Break Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Smoking Ban to Include Break Time

Article excerpt

Come next July, there will be no more smoke breaks for UPMC's 63,000 employees.

The region's biggest health care system announced Wednesday that its new no-smoking policy would take effect July 1, 2014. UPMC will continue to hire smokers but it will not allow them to smoke during their shifts or their breaks.

That goes for all UPMC and UPMC Health Plan employees, as well as thousands of contractors, volunteers and med school students who are not in the employ of the health system. The policy also forbids snuff, smokeless tobacco -- and even electric cigarettes, which deliver nicotine via water vapor and are used by many as a smoking cessation tool.

"Our patients are best cared for, and both patients and visitors have the best experience, when our employees are at their very healthiest and when the workplace is free of tobacco," said Gregory Peaslee, UPMC's chief human resources officer, in a statement.

In letters to those employees, UPMC hospital presidents said the work shift is defined as "time that is paid, and unpaid breaks, including lunch that is taken on or off campus. ... We realize that this new policy will not be easy for some."

Easy or not, in some ways, this is a natural evolution of UPMC's existing smoking policy, and is common within the industry, too. Hospitals were among the first places to fully ban workplace smoking in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to a no-smoking mandate issued by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which regulates and inspects hospitals. Subsequent research showed the bans, put in place to protect the health of patients, also reduced smoking rates among workers.

But in other ways, this is a marked change for UPMC, which has been smoke-free campuswide since 2007. Telling employees what they can do on hospital property is one thing; telling them what they can do when they step outside for a walk is another.

"Nobody wants people smoking in a hospital," said Lewis Maltby, head of the New Jersey-based National Workrights Institute, an advocacy group that descended from the ACLU. …

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