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One year ago, LMHS used Great American Smoke Out to make campuses tobacco-free

By Staff | Nov 22, 2010

As part of the Great American Smoke Out, a campaign the Lee Memorial Health System participated in a year ago, the local health care provider created a tobacco-free environment for all of their campuses.
Brad Pollins, system director of Organizational Effectiveness and chair of the Tobacco Free Lee Committee, said the smoke out went “amazingly well” last year due to the multi-disciplinary group that was organized nine months before the event took place.
There was also a six-month transition period for employees before the Great American Smoke Out took place Nov. 19, 2009, in order to prepare employees for the change. Pollins said during the transition period they began to designate specific smoking areas on the campuses for their employees.
Various teams were set up that consisted of sub-teams to make sure their mission of creating a tobacco-free environment would be successful. Comprehensive work plans were also initiated and set into place for last year’s event.
He explained that the organization decided to participate in the smoke out because Lee Mem-orial Health System is an institution that focuses on improving the health of Southwest Florida residents.
“It seemed like the right thing to do in line with what our mission is,” he said.
Lee Memorial Health System continues to offer support programs for employees and their spouses for becoming tobacco free. Approximately 1,800 employees used tobacco products before the smoke out was initiated to become tobacco free.
Pollins said the employee health plan pharmacy has provided more than 1,500 tobacco cessation products, which equals to an estimated 40 percent success rate.
“Six hundred people have quit using tobacco products since we launched the program a year ago in our health system,” he said.
Pollins explained that the new policy does not allow any use of tobacco products on any of the properties during working hours. He said so far he has not heard of any instances where employees have not been compliant with keeping the campuses tobacco free.
Although the employees have remained compliant, patients, visitors and family members still need to be approached from time to time to remind them that using tobacco products on any of the campuses is prohibited. Pollins explained that the population of the community changes, so not everyone knows not to use tobacco products on the property.
“Given the nature of who we are, we will never have a 100 percent compliance from the community because people aren’t aware,” he said.
The emergency room, Pollins explained has the least amount of compliance because individuals may be losing a loved one, have lost a loved one and they may be very sick.
“These people choose a certain lifestyle and we need to be passionate in the way we approach them,” he said.
Employees of the Lee Memorial Health System face higher premium rates if they use tobacco products.
“I am proud of Lee Memorial Health System in taking the lead in doing this,” Pollins said. “We are caring people, caring for people and improving the health status of people.”
All the health care systems in Southwest Florida are completely tobacco free, which Pollins believes is a direct outcome of the lead they took on participating in the smoke out. Edison State College, Lee Mental Health, Southwest Florida Addiction Services, United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties, along with Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, also took a stand and are tobacco free.
For additional information abou the Lee Memorial Health System, call 332-1111.