Reported incidents of smoking at Oregon Health & Science University are significantly down two years after the university launched its 100 percent tobacco-free policy. Specifically, encounters with smokers by OHSU Public Safety officers are down by two-thirds. Public safety officers report that the majority of encounters today appear to be with visitors and family members of patients. This new data is being released as the nation prepares for the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 19, an annual campaign by the American Cancer Society to urge Americans to quit smoking.
Since its inception in 2007, several hundred OHSU employees have enrolled in the OHSU Stop-Smoking Program and 42 percent of them have successfully quit, according to survey results. Patients are given medications to help manage cravings while in the hospital. Many are also receiving specialized care to help them quit when they go home through a new consult service staffed by a trained nurse practitioner. In addition, thousands of visitors who smoke have been offered "support packs" with free nicotine replacement to help them manage their cravings while on the OHSU Marquam Hill and South Waterfront campuses.
"We have definitely witnessed a healthy change on our campus for employees, visitors and patients," said Wendy Bjornson, M.P.H, program manager for the Tobacco-Free Initiative. "However, there is a lot more work to be done. It takes a long time to change the culture around smoking and to find solutions to the unique challenges we face."
Since the new OHSU policy went into effect, data supporting tobacco-free campuses has continued to mount. For example, a recent report from the Institute of Medicine concludes that there is a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease from exposure to secondhand smoke.
"We are fully committed to our tobacco-free policy," said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. "The decision to make our campus 100 percent tobacco-free protects the health of our patients, employees and visitors to our campus and is consistent with our health care mission. We are pleased with the progress we have made so far and we are happy to partner with other hospitals and college campuses in Oregon as they adopt tobacco-free policies."