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No more smoking to be allowed at many Oklahoma City area hospitals

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Designated smoking areas will be a thing of the past at Oklahoma City-area hospitals beginning Nov. 18.

The no-tobacco policy applies to major hospitals that are members of the Greater Oklahoma City Hospital Council. VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City has not made a decision to participate, a spokeswoman said.

Designated smoking areas on hospital campuses, including parking lots, will be eliminated. Staff members who smoke will be encouraged to stop and be offered smoking-cessation classes.

Fifteen to 20 percent of hospital employees are smokers, officials said. The policy will cover doctors, nurses, patients, relatives, visitors and vendors.

``We needed to take a stand. It's the right thing to do,'' Bruce Lawrence, chief operating officer for Integris Baptist and Integris Southwest hospitals, said of the sweeping policy and show of unity among hospitals.

But at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, staffers and patients who smoke had mixed views.

``This is being forced on us. I should stop smoking when I'm ready,'' said Deborah Arani, 46, an OU Medical Center nurse's aide.

Jennifer Wray, 25, a dialysis patient at the hospital, said not having a place to smoke on hospital property will force people inside to smoke in rest rooms and try to cover their tracks.

Sharlene Parks, 50, a parking lot attendant, sees an opportunity for her in the new policy.

``It's fine with me, it will help me quit,'' Parks said.

OU physicians will attempt to notify their patients before the policy takes effect, officials said. Some 400 physicians at OU Medical Center will include a notice in appointment cards.

None of the groups of state hospitals has proposed a similar policy, said Craig Jones, Oklahoma Hospital Association president.

``Hospitals are focal points for health in any community, and they have a responsibility to set an example for what needs to happen in their community,'' Jones said.

OU Medical Center has 3,000 employees, while the Integris system of hospitals and clinics has 5,000 employees.

Nov. 18 was chosen because it is the 27th annual Great American Smokeout sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
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