Hospitals to ban smoking

Come Jan. 1, Glendale Adventist Medical Center and Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center will no longer allow smoking on hospital grounds.

Not far behind, Verdugo Hills Hospital — located in Glendale, along the border of La Cañada Flintridge — plans to go smoke-free by the end of 2011.

The moves come on the heels of aggressive smoking regulations implemented by other health-care organizations and local governments, including USC medical centers and the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank.

At Glendale Memorial and Adventist hospitals, everyone — patients, visitors, nurses, doctors and hospital brass — will be barred from lighting up near buildings, parking areas and anywhere else on the campuses.

Glendale Adventist President Morre Dean said the decision to implement the ban came after years of deliberation.

Hospital administrators sought to balance workers' personal choices against the health risks of smoking, which is a common cause of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

"It's been a very difficult decision because our organization aims to be inclusive — inclusive of people's beliefs and the decisions they make in life. But we feel that we should be a leader in our community in promoting health," he said.

As they resolve to go cold turkey in the New Year, the hospitals will increase resources for patients and workers seeking to kick the habit, including low-cost or free smoking-cessation classes and access to related products, such as nicotine patches and smokeless cigarettes.

"We hope that the number of tobacco users in our community and our staff will decrease over time," Nancy Sesk, Glendale Memorial's quality management director, wrote in an e-mail.

Verdugo Hills Hospital plans to go smoke-free after offering free classes to help smokers quit, according to a statement by President Len LaBella.

"Currently we have designated areas, away from entrances, for smoking. We will be offering smoking-cessation classes to assist staff who currently smoke. These classes will be open without charge to the public. Once we have completed this phase, we will proceed to a smoke-free campus," reads LaBella's statement.

Dean and Sesk said hospital employees have offered strong, though not universal, support for the new policies.

"We actually do not have a large volume of employees who smoke on the campus," Sesk said, but "we have had no formal concerns filed to-date by employees, and we did provide notice to our collective bargaining units."

At Glendale Adventist, said Dean, "almost unanimously, people are saying it is a great thing. But I am concerned about the small minority that say they don't think it is a great thing."

Dean said the hospital is educating staff about the dangers of smoking as it readies them for the Jan. 1 prohibitions.

"We're not telling them what they can and can't do in life. We're not getting into breaks or what they do off campus or across the street," he said. "But we are saying the best thing for our patients and families is to have a tobacco-free campus."

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