By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Plains Regional Medical Center will no longer permit tobacco use on its property to promote public health, according to a hospital official. The smoking ban begins today.
The hospital, part of the Presbyterian Health Care Services system, has disbanded its designated outdoor smoking areas, hospital officials said.
“We wanted to send a strong message,” Presbyterian Director of Public Relations Todd Sandman said. “Smoking and tobacco use is inconsistent with good health.”
Hospital board members and senior management have been planning the ban for about a year, Sandman said.
According to PRMC administrator Brian Bentley, patients who smoke will be provided with nicotine patches upon request and employees must leave the property and clock-out in order to smoke.
“Our intention is to not make it easy to smoke and our goal is to not be affiliated with smoking in any fashion,” Bentley said Wednesday night. “We recognized by accepting smoking, we were doing a disservice to our patients.”
Bentley said allowing smoking, even outside the facility, is akin to encouraging the habit. He said previous hospital smoking policies contradicted PRMC’s promotion of healthy habits. City-wide efforts to ban smoking in all public access buildings, including restaurants, have failed in the past.
Prior to enacting the ban, the hospital offered its employees incentives to quit smoking, including providing free soda in the cafeteria for patients and employees, Sandman said. The hospital also set up classes for its employees to encourage them to end their smoking habits.
Bentley said the classes have been successful. He said he knew at least two long-time smokers who quit after attending the classes.
The classes are also available to the public for a nominal charge, Bentley said. For information, call 769-2141.