Tulsa Smokers Adjust To Hospital Smoking Ban

Monday, November 20th 2006, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

A smoking ban took effect at all 12 Tulsa hospitals last week. From now on, no one is allowed to smoke anywhere on hospital property.

News on 6 reporter Chris Wright says that it may take a while for patients and employees to get use to the ban.

The butts are quickly piling up across the street from Hillcrest Medical Center. No longer welcome on the property, smokers are forced to take refuge across the street. Many were talking about the recent hospital smoking ban, and so far, reviews are mixed. Smoker Richard Sterrett: "I agree with it 100 percent. I know it's a dirty habit. I would like to quit, but I can't stop." Smoker Susie Harrison: "they want to tell you where you can and can not smoke, I thought this was America."

Tulsa hospitals are not wasting any time enforcing the ban. Moments before talking to us, Susie Harrison, who was smoking on hospital property, was asked by a security guard to leave. Down the street at St. John, people who miss or ignore all the no smoking signs are given a reminder. Anyone caught smoking at St. John is handed a tobacco free card reminding them smoking is now prohibited at the hospital. The card also gives them a number where they can get help kicking the habit. Physiologist Dr. Elizabeth Butler: "perhaps they may not know until they are approached that the campus is smoke free, so it's a gentle reminder."

St John says the transition to a smoke free environment has gone smoothly. As part of the initiative, "Tobacco Cessation" classes are offered to employees looking to quit, and some have taken advantage. Sean Pitezel: "we realize that it's not healthy for us, we just kind of needed a motivating factor and this was it for me."

But smokers who have no desire to quit say visiting a hospital is a stressful experience, and they are being denied the one thing that relieves that stress. Smoker Susie Harrison: "I've been in here for two hours, all I want is a cigarette and a Pepsi."

The ban also extends to hospital workers' clothes. Any employees who leave the property to have a cigarette and returns smelling of smoke can be sent home to change.