R-CH goes tobacco-free

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

AHOSKIE – May 31 was World No-Tobacco Day and Roanoke Chowan Hospital celebrated by going &uot;smokeless&uot; for their entire facility.

RCH joined the rest of the hospitals in the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina network in prohibiting the use of all tobacco products on all of their facilities and campuses.

To kick off the new policy, the hospital invited Kathryn Sellers and members of the T.A.T.U. (Teens Against Tobacco Use) program to offer goodies and informational brochures to employees and visitors.

Sellers is the Youth Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for the Hertford County Public Health Authority.

T.A.T.U. members, all students at Hertford County High School, manned the entrances and departments in their efforts to spread awareness about the dangers of smoking.

Lisa Newsome, public relations officer at the hospital, said that although the hospital has held a smoke free policy inside of the facility since the late 1980’s, the adoption of this new policy has more far reaching implications.

&uot;The new policy affects the hospital employees as well as visitors. We have approximately a hundred or so employees who are smokers,&uot; Newsome explained.

Newsome went on to say that there are instances where the policing of smokers on campus will not be as stringent as the policy can allow.

&uot;We are trying to find a working medium for the emergency room area where there will be many people who are not regular visitors to the hospital that find themselves in a stressful situation where they are accustom to lighting up a cigarette.&uot; Newsome said, &uot;We are not trying to be the ‘smoke police’ but we do expect individuals who are using the facilities to honor the new policy.&uot;

To assist in the transition, the hospital has offered free classes and counseling to employees who are looking to stop smoking altogether or are looking to adjust to the new policy.

Newsome added, &uot;We are even offering ‘stop smoking gum’ to anyone looking for help quitting.&uot;

On hand for the smokeless kick-off was Roanoke Chowan Hospital President Sue Lassiter and Russell Allen, wellness program specialist at the hospital’s Viquest Center.

A news brief co authored by Lassiter detailed the rationale behind the new policy. According to the brief, tobacco is the number one cause of preventable deaths in North Carolina. More than 30 hospitals in North Carolina have gone smoke free.

Lassiter says, &uot;As a health care organization, we work hard every day to help people improve their chances of a long and healthful life. We are in the business of helping people become and stay healthy and that includes the more than 8,100 employees in our system.&uot;

Allen explained that the Viquest Center would be offering 8 week/8 session &uot;Freedom From Smoking&uot; cessation programs. The programs were developed and certified by the American Lung Association and will begin Wednesday June 14. There will be a free presentation about the program on June 7 at 7:30 pm at the hospital.