UC Davis Health System going smoke-free in 2008
"Our goal in this smoke-free initiative is to work together to achieve a safe and healthy environment." -- Shelton Duruisseau
Joining a growing list of hospitals and health systems around the country, UC Davis' Sacramento campus will become a completely smoke-free environment on July 1, 2008.
The decision to eliminate all smoking from the 143-acre Stockton Boulevard campus was based on a recommendation from UC Davis Health System 's safety committee, which noted that all tobacco smoke, including second hand smoke, poses a serious health hazard for which there is no risk-free level of exposure. Smoke-free policies have been adopted locally at other hospitals in the Sacramento area, at other medical centers around the state, including UC San Francisco and UC Irvine, and nationally at a number of health systems, including the Cleveland and Mayo clinics, Truman Medical Centers and the Michigan Health System.
Shelton Duruisseau, the health system's chief administrative and professional services officer, who is overseeing the initiative, anticipates a smooth transition to the smoke-free campus next year in part because of the preparation and planning now under way. UC Davis officials established a steering group representing a broad range of employees to help map out the new policy. The planning team recently completed a randomized phone survey of 400 employees to gauge opinions and concerns about smoking and tobacco-related policies.
"Because we are a place for health and healing," said Duruisseau, "our patients, employees and visitors deserve a safe environment, free from any tobacco smoke."
Health system employee survey results
Duruisseau noted that the health system's survey found that fully 90 percent of employees interviewed agreed that exposure to second hand smoke, including exposure in an outdoor environment, can be hazardous to a person's health.
Another key finding was that only 8 percent of those employees surveyed smoke on a regular basis. More than half of all those queried want the university to do more to limit exposure to second hand smoke, and 68 percent agreed that eliminating all smoking on the Sacramento campus would be in the best interests of patients. As the smoke-free initiative moves forward, the university plans to consult with a variety interests, including union representatives, neighborhood residents and merchants, as a way to build awareness and involvement with the process.
"One of the other wonderful benefits of moving to a smoke-free environment is that it helps encourage a fair number of smokers to consider kicking the habit. It's exactly what we'd like to see with this initiative, so it is important that we give everyone the support and opportunities they need to do just that."
— Ralph deVere White, UC Davis Cancer Center director
Noel VanDeviver, principal labor relations consultant for the health system's human resources department, chairs the smoke-free committee and indicated that outreach and education will be a crucial part of the transition.
"We're planning to host a "town hall" style session," said VanDeviver, "in which people can ask questions and offer suggestions about the initiative. We plan to work in a collaborative manner and give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts on how best to establish an environment free from second hand smoke."
In conjunction with the non-profit California Tobacco Control Alliance, the health system is enhancing its smoking cessation programs and materials so that employees and patients have additional options to assist them if they choose to break the smoking habit. Twenty-six percent of smokers surveyed indicated they would try to quit smoking if a smoke-free policy was established.
"One of the other wonderful benefits of moving to a smoke-free environment," said Ralph deVere White, director of the UC Davis Cancer Center and a member of the smoke-free steering committee, "is that it helps encourage a fair number of smokers to consider kicking the habit. It's exactly what we'd like to see with this initiative, so it is important that we give everyone the support and opportunities they need to do just that."
The health system's survey did reveal some concerns about violating smokers' rights and questions about possible problems for patients who smoke as a way to relieve stress. Employees also commented on enforcement issues when the new guidelines go into effect next year.
"UC Davis Health System has long-standing 'no smoking' policies in and around buildings and rules about where smoking is allowed," said Duruisseau. "Establishing a smoke-free policy simply expands those guidelines so that everyone on our campus enjoys the right of being protected from the unhealthy and damaging impacts of smoke."
Details about the university's smoke-free initiative, including specific boundaries and the smoking-cessation tools to be offered, will be determined over the coming months by the steering committee and through stakeholder forums and discussions. Health system employees are being encouraged to share their ideas and questions with committee members.
"We're going to be very sensitive to the challenges employees and visitors may face when this new policy goes into effect," said Duruisseau. "Our goal in this smoke-free initiative is to work together to achieve a safe and healthy environment. We need everyone's understanding and participation because all of us ultimately will benefit from it."