SVHC Goes Tobacco-Free Jan. 1

12 November 2010
Media Contact: Kevin Robinson

BENNINGTON — Come January 1, 2011, patients, visitors, and employees at Southwestern Vermont Health Care will no longer be able to use tobacco products on the health system’s property. The ban on tobacco products extends to all property owned by the health system including the hospital’s main campus, which stretches from Dewey Street to Monument Avenue Extended.

“Despite years of effort to reduce the effects of tobacco use, it remains the leading cause of preventable disease in our country,” said Thomas Dee, the health system’s president and CEO. “We are committed to providing outstanding care and a safe environment for staff, patients, and visitors. Permitting tobacco use at SVHC is not in line with those goals.”

The health system is not asking anyone to stop using tobacco, Dee explained. “We are simply asking them not to use tobacco at SVHC.”

Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is an addictive drug. To help visitors who use tobacco stave off withdrawal, SVMC will have nicotine replacement therapy available for patients and for visitors. Patients who use tobacco can get nicotine replacement as part of their treatment. Because nicotine is a drug, doctors already consider it when treating patients in the hospital. So, nicotine replacement patches, inhalers, and lozenges are available for any patient who needs them.

Hospital visitors will be able to purchase nicotine patches or lozenges from the gift shop. The hospital even has set up special provisions to help get nicotine replacement to visitors in emergency situations or after the gift shop closes.

“As healthcare providers, we need to discourage tobacco use,” explained Dr. William Tock, a hospitalist and the president of SVHC’s medical staff. “By now, most people have heard that tobacco causes cancer. What they haven’t heard is that it affects almost every system in the body. Tobacco use makes surgical wounds and even broken bones heal more slowly. Our medical staff has a moral obligation to do no harm. So, we simply cannot make it convenient for people to use tobacco while they are here.”

Tobacco use, especially smoking, is linked to hundreds of diseases. Secondhand smoke contains 40 cancer-causing chemicals and 200 known poisons. In addition to lung disease, cancer, and heart disease, tobacco smoke hurts children. Mothers who smoke while pregnant have a higher rate of miscarriage and stillbirth. They also are more likely to give birth to babies with low birth weight, and decreased lung function. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have more asthma, colds, pneumonia, and other lung diseases. They also get more ear and sinus infections.

The hospital’s entire campus is included in the policy. The property stretches from the Monument Avenue entrance to Dewey street, and includes the main hospital building as well as the Centers for Living & Rehabilitation, the Medical Office Building and Cancer Center, and the Toolan Building. Visitors who violate the policy can expect to be approached by hospital staff or security. The hospital also has revised its employee policies to prohibit smoking by employees while they are on paid time.

SVMC is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, a community not-for-profit dedicated to providing outstanding health care to communities it serves. SVHC also includes the SVMC Deerfield and Northshire Campuses, Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living & Rehabilitation, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, and several medical practices.