(The following article comes courtesy of Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. It was produced by Sgt. David Chapman)
For service members, Department of Defense contractors and civilian visitors on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, available places to smoke will become more limited after the new year.
On Jan. 1, 2013, Madigan Healthcare System will implement a no tobacco policy at its main hospital campus, the Madigan Annex, Winder Family Medical Clinic, Okubo Family Medicine Clinic on Lewis-North and McChord Clinic on McChord-Field.
“Army medicine is really focusing on wellness and affecting all of our patient’s health rather than just responding to illness,” said Col. Dallas Homas, Madigan commander. “We are trying to reach out and say, ‘listen it is really important to focus on what it takes to be healthy.’ It is an incredibly important initiative that we are undertaking. It’s directly in support of the surgeon general’s Army Medicine Strategy 2020, and really a potentially huge impact on our patient population and their overall health and wellness.”
The exact changes being made to the tobacco policy at Madigan will be simple and easily defined. There will be no tobacco, to include cigarettes, pipes, cigars, dip, chewing tobacco or even electronic cigarettes, allowed in or near the hospital, said Homas.
Homas knew some staff members would not be receptive to the program, but he has been surprised by the welcoming attitude from the majority.
“We thought we would hear a lot of negativity, a lot push back on this policy. But that has not been the case,” said Homas. “I think that Madigan staff is very excited to take this on and to move forward with it. Long time addicted tobacco users are a tough population and I would tell them this is for their benefit, the benefit of their family and friends.”
The challenge of implementing this program required an agreement that would be accepted by the union represented civilian employees, and the Madigan command staff.
Glenn Lampmann, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1502, was key to helping to make sure the policy change offered the most benefit to all those it would impact and to help ease any concerns for those who were not necessarily excited about the change.
“I lost some dues paying members over this issue, but less than I had expected. But I think some people are taking it as an opportunity to quit smoking,” said Lampmann. “For the most part it has been a positive response. It is something we should do as a health care facility.”
The civilian employees were able to come to a special agreement as part of the new policy that will allow them to go to their personal vehicles to smoke on their breaks, no longer at the smoking area closer to the building, explained Homas.
Madigan’s commander sees the new policy as an opportunity to battle illness from a different direction and to become the natural leader in wellness and prevention.
“I think this is a step that has been needed for decades,” said Homas. “We in America have known for a very long time that tobacco use is a significant contributor of many illnesses that afflict Americans across the country. Once we are able to get our patient population and our staff to stop using tobacco products, think of the increase in wellness and decrease in the bouts of bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections and head, neck and lung cancers.”
The new policy is very important to non-smokers as well. For them it is more about the image that a health care provider must present to their patients on a daily basis.
“I’m a health care professional. I feel an obligation to model good healthy behavior that promotes health and well being,” said Col. James Terrio, chief of preventive medicine. “Madigan as an organization that provides health care to an entire community also has a similar responsibility and the tobacco-free campus really is a tangible solid step in that direction.”
For those employees of Madigan who see the new policy as an opportunity to quit smoking, the health care facility has classes and healthy alternatives to help fight the battle of nicotine addiction.
“We have a lot of programs in place. All of the primary care clinics, family medicine and pulmonary clinic, all have their own tobacco cessation programs,” said Cynthia Hawthorne, Army public health nurse and former smoker. “Staff who is interested in quitting can contact occupational therapy to sign up for classes through the cessation program there.”
Hawthorne, who has been without cigarettes for the last 24 years, is sympathetic to those who want to take on the challenges of quitting smoking and knows that Madigan will do all they can for those who ask for help.
“I am proud of Team Madigan for doing this. I smoked from a pack, to pack and a half a day for 17 years and I didn’t just quit over night. It took me a good year and a half of several attempts,” said Hawthorne. “Never quit trying to quit. It can take on average eight to ten serious quit attempts. I just kept at it.”
To sign up for smoking cessation classes contact Tri-Care at, 1-800-404-4506, to book their classes. For those interested in off post options visit, www.ucanquit2.org or contact Washington State Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.