PITTSBURGH, June 30, 2014 – UPMC on July 1 will join other major U.S. medical centers by asking employees, physicians, volunteers, contractors and students to be smoke and tobacco-free during their entire shifts. UPMC is not asking employees to quit smoking, only to comply with the new policy.
“We’re committed to maintaining a healthy environment for employees, patients and our visitors,” said Greg Peaslee, UPMC executive vice president and chief human resources and administrative services officer. “By reducing exposure to tobacco products, we can help the UPMC experience to be a positive one.”
Tobacco use currently is not permitted on any UPMC property, and starting July 1, the policy will be extended to prohibit tobacco use for the entire work shift or assignment, including paid and unpaid breaks. Individuals also cannot smell of smoke during work.
“The health risks of smoking are well-documented,” said Marc Manley, M.D., vice president of population health management, UPMC Health Plan. “There also is evidence of danger from second-hand smoke, and even ‘third-hand’ smoke. Residue from tobacco smoke can cling to skin, hair and clothing long after someone has finished smoking, and can be an irritant to others.”
UPMC announced the smoke-free shift policy in July 2013 to give ample time for individuals to access UPMC’s tobacco-cessation tools and resources. The tools and resources include online support, health coaching, nicotine replacement products, text tips for quitting and LifeSolutions, UPMC’s employee assistance program.
Another tool is the Ready to Quit health coaching program. Fifty percent of participants who complete the program report six months after their planned quit date that they are still tobacco free. Staff enrollments in the program doubled after the Smoke- and Tobacco-free Shift policy was first announced last July.
“We have a broad array of highly effective resources and support services available. LifeSolutions counselors can provide continuing smokers with strategies for working through their shifts without using tobacco. For those who want to quit or are struggling to stay smoke-free, Health Plan health coaches have the knowledge and skills to significantly increase their chances of success,” said Timothy Cline, Ph.D., senior director, Clinical Training and Development, UPMC Health Plan, who specializes in behavioral approaches to smoking cessation.
UPMC has a long record of success helping employees achieve better health. Tobacco use prevalence among UPMC employees dropped from 18.1 percent in 2007 to 9.8 percent in 2013, while more than 20 percent of adults in Allegheny County continue to smoke cigarettes. The National Business Group on Health has recognized UPMC as one of the best employers for healthy lifestyles in the country.