The U.S. Surgeon General has confirmed that exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is a serious health hazard and that there is no risk-free level of exposure. Tobacco use in and around hospitals poses health and safety risks for patients, employees and visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why is Southeast Georgia Health System totally tobacco-free?
A. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. It is a factor in heart disease, cancer, strokes and lung disease. Secondhand smoke contributes to respiratory infections, asthma, heart disease, and cancer. In addition to the health related issues caused by tobacco use, a frequent concern voiced by our patients has been the overwhelming smell of tobacco on some of our team members. As a tobacco-free health system, we are creating a healthier environment for everyone on our campuses and also addressing a common patient complaint.
Q. What does tobacco-free health system mean?
A. The use of tobacco, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco is not allowed anywhere on Health System properties. This includes inside our buildings, sidewalks, walkways, outside patios, parking lots, and entrances. There are no designated areas for tobacco use on any of the campuses.
Q. To whom does this policy change apply?
A. The policy applies to everyone: team members, physicians, volunteers, students, patients, visitors, vendors, and contractors who work in or visit our buildings, parking lots and grounds.
Q. Are there designated smoking areas?
A. No. Tobacco use and second hand smoke exposure are known health hazards. We are committed to providing a healthy environment by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke while on our campuses. Eliminating smoking on our campuses also supports those who are trying to quit and eliminates odors on team members who come in contact with patients.
Q. What kind of support are we providing to team members who want to stop using tobacco?
A. The Health System offers the American Cancer Society’s Fresh Start tobacco cessation classes for our team members and their family members covered by our benefits plan, medical staff and volunteers. Please contact the Health Promotion and Wellness Department at 912-466-5160 for more information regarding these classes and other support services available.
There are also nicotine replacement and medication options. Nicotine gum and patches are currently available for purchase in the Medical Center Pharmacy on the Brunswick Campus.. Consult your doctor about your plans for quitting and for help deciding what is best for you.
Q. How are we educating patients, visitors, and the public about our tobacco-free initiative?
A. The Health System has information and educational materials about our tobacco-free health system. Communications via the newspapers, campus signage, our website and targeted mailings were facilitated in order to make people aware of our policy. Tobacco-Free Campus/Frequently Asked Questions Page 2 of 2 Updated 01-06-2016
Q: Do team members, patients and visitors have to quit using tobacco?
A: No. The Health System is not forcing anyone to quit. This policy means individuals can't use tobacco products on Health System property.
Q. What educational programs are being offered to team members?
A. Team member education was conducted at the department level. Beginning January 2012, each department head was responsible for providing educational sessions for team members regarding the tobacco-free policy. Information is also available on our team member portal.
Q. Is smoking allowed in my car while it is parked on Health System property?
A. No, tobacco use is not allowed in your car while it is parked on Health System property.
Q. Will inpatients be allowed to go off-campus somewhere to smoke once we go tobacco-free?
A. In-patients may not leave their unit or the Health System property to use tobacco. If the patient is asking about leaving to smoke, you should contact the patient’s physician for assistance with managing their nicotine craving and remind the patient of the tobacco-free policy.
Q. What if an inpatient leaves the unit anyway once we are tobacco-free?
A. If a competent patient continues to insist and actually leaves the unit, do not attempt to physically stop the patient unless you believe that they are in grave danger of injury due to equipment or medical condition. Document the absence in the medical record and contact the patient’s physician.
Q. What resources/assistance will be available to help team members feel comfortable in approaching smokers and reporting violators to managers?
A. Scripts were provided to help our team members know what they should say. Information cards were also developed that can be handed to smokers to inform them of the tobacco-free environment. We want to convey that this tobacco-free initiative is the right thing to do. We are providing a better place for people to visit and work.
Q. Isn't tobacco use a personal legal right?
A. An organization has the right to limit or eliminate tobacco use on their property. We are not requiring patients, visitors, volunteers or existing team members and medical staff to quit using tobacco, but we do require that they refrain from tobacco use while on Health System campuses, owned or leased property. However, effective January 1, 2012, the Health System no longer hires new team members who are tobacco users.
Q. How can we help visitors avoid using tobacco while on Health System campuses?
A. Visitors may not utilize tobacco products on any Health System grounds. Nicotine gum is available for purchase in the Medical Center Pharmacy on the Brunswick Campus. We ask that visitors are considerate of our neighbors, and not use tobacco on their property either. We strive to be a leader in health care by promoting a healthy image to the community.