UPMC Policy Extinguishes Employees’ Smoking During Shifts

Jul 10, 2013

Starting July 1, 2014, UPMC is stubbing out the cigarettes of its employees, physicians, students and volunteers during their shifts.

UPMC has introduced a policy in which employees are not permitted to smoke at any point during their shift — even during scheduled breaks.

Tim Cline, senior director of clinical training and development, said exposure to tobacco smoke and the residual products of tobacco use is not safe on any level.

“We’ve discovered that the tars and particles which carry the toxins from tobacco smoke are carried on the skin, the hair and the clothing of people who are exposed to smoke and can be transferred to other people and furniture, etc. just through contact,” Cline said.

Employees have one year to train themselves to work an entire shift without smoking.

Cline said nicotine is metabolized in the body very quickly, leaving the body craving more, fast.

“Smokers who are addicted to nicotine typically have to replenish the nicotine in their system every hour to two hours, or they’ll experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms like anxiety, irritability, lack of focus and concentration,” Cline said.

UPMC has various programs to help smokers combat the incessant urge while at work, or for good, including online support and one-on-one counseling with health coaches.

UPMC will also provide FDA-approved products such as nicotine patches, gum, nasal spray, oral inhalers and lozenges.

Cline said people have a hard time quitting for three reasons: they have become addicted to nicotine, have become habituated to the behavior of smoking, in which engaging in common activities triggers their urge to smoke, or have become psychologically dependent on it.

Cline said smokers need to understand the various ways they’re hooked to tobacco use in order to successfully stop.

“People who decide that they’re going to quit look at it as a matter of will power, that if they’re strong enough that they’ll be able to just resist the urges and if they kind of do that on an ongoing basis, in time the urges will go away and they’ll be successful … and that method almost usually ends in failure,” Cline said.

Cline said 11 percent of UPMC doctors, nurses and volunteers smoke, compared to 18 to 20 percent of the Pittsburgh-area residents.

He emphasized that UPMC is not forcing its employees to quit smoking completely and will still hire smokers.

“They just have to realize that they won’t be able to smoke from the beginning to the end of their shift and that we will be providing them with all of the resources and support available to help them quit should they decide that that’s the right thing for them to do,” Cline said.