Eubanks figures there’s no better time to quit than now, especially since the place he works, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, is snuffing out tobacco on its campus.
“I haven’t smoked in three days. I figure if you can’t smoke at work, you might as well quit,” said Eubanks, who works as an electrician at the medical center. “Going tobacco-free is going to be good for everyone — both hospital employees and the patients.”
After more than a year of working out a policy, SRMC has joined the trend among North Carolina hospitals and gone 100 percent tobacco-free.
“What this means is that the use of tobacco products of any kind are no longer permitted on any of our properties and in any of our facilities,” said Amanda Crabtree, public relations director for the hospital. “This policy affects not only our campus here, but also our six primary care clinics — five of which are in Robeson County and one in Bladen County.”
According to Crabtree, 105 other hospitals across the state have already become 100 percent tobacco-free. She said that 63 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by SRMC employees working on a tobacco-free study and advisory committee supported SRMC’s efforts to become tobacco-free.
On Tuesday, hospital employees were busy dismantling smoking huts, removing all cigarette disposal bins and taking down signs related to smoking. At the same time, in the hospital lobby, information on healthy living was being distributed, free refreshments were available, and hospital employees and others had the opportunity to swap their tobacco products for a bag that included a T-shirt, spa gift certificate, fitness center pass and more.
Crabtree said that a similar tobacco-free kickoff event in the hospital’s lobby Monday night had been attended by more than 200 people. Twenty-one of those attending had swapped their tobacco products — including snuff, cigarettes and cigars —for the bag of tobacco-free promotional products.
Eubanks got a head start on quitting smoking.
“I haven’t smoked in three days. I figure if you can’t smoke at work, you might as well quit,” he said. “Going tobacco-free is going to be good for everyone — both hospital employees and the patients.”
Floyd Sykes, a surgical technician who is also trying to give up smoking, agreed.
“To quit smoking, you have to have the will to do it,” Sykes said. “I think it is a lot of mind over matter. ... “This is going to be good for everyone here.’’
Hospital officials contend that if employees don’t use tobacco products they will be healthier, more productive and help reduce the dollars spent on the employees health plan. SRMC’s 2,000 employees are not being required to quit using tobacco products, but hospital officials are banking on the new policy to encourage employees to quit using tobacco products.
“We want the community to know that we are working toward making the community healthier,” said Mary Black, the hospital’s director of community health services. “We need to set an example. It is difficult for us to ask others, such as the public schools, to go tobacco-free if we don’t do it ourselves.”
Black said that statistics show 75 percent of the people who use tobacco products really want to quit. Most people quit and restart using tobacco products at least six times, she said, before they overcome their addiction.
“It’s difficult. Many times the employee just needs that little extra push,” she said.
The hospital is offering plenty of assistance to those employees who want to quit tobacco use. They include Web and phone counseling, free nicotine replacement therapy and fresh-start classes, Black said.
According to Joy Evans, a hospital pharmacist, 48 employees are already participating in SRMC’s Quit Assistance Benefits Program, which includes the free nicotine replacement therapy.
“We are not requiring employees to quit using tobacco products. We are just assisting them to quit,” Evans said. “I’d say the program has been successful so far.”