UPMC to ban employees from smoking during workday

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PITTSBURGH —

UPMC workers and volunteers who smoke or use other tobacco products have less than a year before a new policy will bar them from doing so during the workday, the health system announced Wednesday.

Beginning July 1, 2014, UPMC plans to go smoke- and tobacco-free during the workday, meaning staff, doctors, students and volunteers no longer will be able to take smoke breaks during their shifts. The health system announced that it is extending a comprehensive, smoke-cessation program free of charge to employees and that it will continue to hire smokers.

“Our primary goal is the health and well-being of our patients,” said Dr. Timothy Cline, senior director of UPMC Health Plan's clinical training and development. “We also care greatly about the health and well-being of our employees and visitors.”

“We want this to be one more area of encouragement, one more kind of push to help people make healthy behavior changes,” said Dr. Hillary Tindle, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

The new policy is a continuation of UPMC's decision in 2007 to make each of its campuses smoke-free, said Cline, who helps people quit smoking.

Employees will be offered online support, one-on-one counseling and group support to help them stop smoking and using other tobacco products. They also will have free access to various cessation medications approved by the FDA, including nicotine patches, gum, nasal spray, oral inhalers and lozenges, and non-nicotine tablets.

UPMC is Pennsylvania's largest employer, with 55,000 workers. More than one in 10 of its staff report tobacco use, the nonprofit reports.

Across the country, more than 44 million people, or 18 percent of the population, smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seven in 10 report wanting to quit, though fewer than half try each year, the CDC reports.

Channel 11’s Trisha Pittman reported that studies show nicotine residue, or third-hand smoke, can remain on skin, clothing and hair, exposing patients to cancer-causing carcinogens.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.