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CVPH campuses go tobacco-free this week

PLATTSBURGH The occasional smell of cigarette smoke will soon be a memory at CVPH Medical Center as the Beekman Street campus officially becomes tobacco-free this Thursday. In an initiative that has been two years in the making, CVPH employees, patients and visitors will no longer be able to smoke or use other tobacco products while on hospital grounds. Cindie Gardner, CVPH vice president of patient services, said the change is part of a growing, logical trend for healthcare facilities like CVPH Medical Center. "This just makes sense. After all, we are a health care facility," said Ms. Gardner. "Though, I think it will be very difficult for people to adjust even though theyve had ample warning." Word of CVPH going tobacco-free was first announced in November 2005, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout, a movement started in the 1970s to encourage smokers to quit. At that time, the 52-week time clock began. As weeks progressed, internal promotion of the impending hospital policy increased, and, most recently a 60-second public service announcement has been airing on WPTZ NewsChannel 5, as one measure of informing the general public of the change. In addition to simply getting the word out, said Ms. Gardner, CVPH has also worked diligently to provide cessation services such as support groups, classes and informational brochures free of charge to employees who want to quit smoking. Through collaboration with employees physicians, medications have also been made available for those wishing to quit with the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Others have been prescribed nicotine patches, gum or lozenges as a means to curb their tobacco craving tendencies. Protocol has also been put into place, said Ms. Gardner, that allows for patients to communicate with physicians whether or not they are tobacco users interested in quitting. Physicians are then able to discuss what options the hospital has including the provision of "quit kits," designed to help the patient meet that goal. Partnerships with outside agencies have also been a beneficial part to CVPH creating what it hopes will be a successful smoke-free campus campaign, said Ms. Gardner. The Adirondack Tobacco Free Network, New York State Smokers Quitline, American Cancer Society and especially the North Country Tobacco Cessation Center, she said, have been instrumental in helping smokers prepare for the Nov. 15 target date. "I think its going to be very hard for folks who fully intend to continue to smoke," said Ms. Gardner. "And our goal is not to say you cant smoke, our goal is to say you cant smoke here." "Were very careful to say its not a no smoking facility, its a tobacco-free facility," stressed Ms. Gardner, adding the use of smokeless chewing tobacco will also be prohibited. In the most recent edition of STAT News, the CVPH employee newsletter, the hospitals employee break policy was clearly outlined, further reminding workers of break limitations, which will not change. Already, employees receive a 30-minute non-paid lunch break, for which they clock out and are able to leave the campus. The employees also receive a 15-minute paid break, for which they remain "on the clock," said Ms. Gardner, and are not allowed to leave hospital property. Now and once the tobacco-free policy is in effect, at no point will employees be able to smoke unless they are on a lunch break and off hospital property. Smoking in vehicles on hospital grounds, for CVPH employees and visitors, she added, will also be prohibited. "Were not telling people to stop smoking, even though its great advice," said Michael J. Hildebran, CVPH director of marketing and public relations. "We are saying you cant be exposing people on a hospital campus to second-hand smoke. That has long been one of our leading complaints." Sharon S. Twiss, director of the CVPH Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, is one employee who stated she understands and respects the facilitys decision. Ms. Twiss herself has been a smoker of 35 years, who found herself contemplating what she would do when CVPH announced its decision to go tobacco-free. "My husband and I have smoked for many, many years, and we realized it was costing us roughly $300 a month for cigarettes," said Ms. Twiss. That realization, coupled with her husbands recent open heart surgery and a lifetime of her now grown children asking her to quit smoking helped Ms. Twiss to realize she wanted to quit. With the help of programs offered by CVPH and medications through her family physician, Ms. Twiss reported she has been smoke-free for three months, with the expectation to stay that way. "Ive tried many things over the years, but you have be motivated and be supported," said Ms. Twiss. "I didnt have to quit completely, but I know me well enough to know it was either going to be all or nothing." All or nothing will be the same scenario facing those on CVPH property once the policy is in effect, though it will not be limited to the Beekman Street campus. The policy, said Mr. Hildebran, also includes the rest of CVPH facilities CVPH Health Plaza, Plaza Boulevard; CVPH Business Center, Plattsburgh Plaza, and the CVPH Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, located on New York Avenue at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. However, CVPH facilities will not be the only campuses going tobacco-free. Hospitals in Saranac Lake, Malone, Ogdensburg, Massena and even in CVPHs own back yard Meadowbrook Healthcare on Prospect Avenue will enact similar policies Nov. 15.

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