Hospital To Become Tobacco Free

10-11-05 - A local hospital will soon kick the tobacco habit on their campus.

Starting January First, Mercy Memorial Hospital in Ardmore will be tobacco free, but they aren't forcing folks to stop without a little help.

Thomas Benefield is expecting his fourth child, so to calm his nerves, he's come here to Mercy's smoking section in the back of the hospital.

"I think it's great," Benefield said. "It keeps away the nonsmokers. If they don't want to smoke, they don't have to come back here."

But some of that smoke does seep into hallways and patients bedrooms, and now the hospital wants a complete tobacco free campus.

"The whole nation is going smoke free, and our primary mission is to help provide a healthy community," Mercy Memorial Chief Operating Officer Jay Johnson said. "If the hospital isn't going to lead the way, who is?"

That means starting January First, folks won't be able to smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco anywhere on Mercy's five block radius even in the parking lots.

But they aren't forcing folks to stop the bad habit alone.

"If we are going to head it and ask for it on one hand then we ought to provide ways to assist people in quitting," Johnson said.

Starting later this fall the hospital will now offer a seven-week Freedom From Smoking course that will be free to all employees at first and then to residents. Cathy Geurin leads the stop smoking classes.

"Some smoking programs you don't quit until the end," Geurin said. "This one you do it in the middle so you really have that support there."

But support or not, Benefield, along with other smokers, say the new rule is infringing on their rights and won't make them stop smoking.

The hospital plans to enforce the new rule with security guards. If a person is caught using a tobacco product, they'll just be asked to stop.