Smokers are used to being asked to leave buildings to enjoy their habit, but as of Saturday, even smoking –outside– of 13 Iowa hospitals will be forbidden. The strict new smoking ban at the University Hospitals in Iowa City covers the entire hospital campus, including all outdoor areas and the four parking decks.
Janie Knipper is a registered nurse at the hospital and a smoking cessation counselor. Knipper says “All staff, faculty, volunteers and students will be expected to comply with the smoke-free policy as well as the patients and visitors. For staff, if they’re continually caught smoking, then their supervisor will be notified and the proper disciplinary action will be taken.” That could include firing, if the problem persists.
As for visitors, they’ll be told to put their cigarettes out or to move off the hospital grounds, while patients will simply be asked not to smoke at all. She says there will be maps of the hospital campus and brochures posted in places where people used to smoke showing them where they can go to smoke, which involves a bit of a hike. Smoking “huts” are being removed.
Knipper says it’s a contradiction to have people smoking in a place where they’re supposed to be focused on healing the sick. She says they’re not trying to make people quit smoking, but “that would be an added bonus if they do.” Knipper suggests staff “develop a personal plan for how they will get through their work day without violating the smoke-free policy.”
The Iowa Hospital Association has asked all of its members to ban smoking and 11 hospitals around the state had already done so. Effective July 1st, Mercy Health Network Hospitals in Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Mason City and Sioux City will become smoke-free campuses, as will Iowa Health Systems’ Hospitals: Finley in Dubuque; Trinity in Fort Dodge; St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids; Trinity in the Quad Cities; St. Luke’s in Sioux City and Allen Memorial in Waterloo.
In addition, the largest medical school in the state — Des Moines University — will become a smoke-free campus on July 1st. Des Moines University president Terry Branstad, the former governor, says his mother was a life-long smoker who died because of her habit. “(In) 1983 the first thing we did on the very first day that I became governor was we eliminated smoking in both Terrace Hill and the governor’s office,” Branstad says. Branstad later banned the sale of cigarettes from vending machines in the statehouse.
Branstad has held meetings with students and staff at Des Moines University this week, explaining the policy means no-smoking on the entire campus — not just inside but outside, too. “We are proud as an institution that educates future health care providers to be part of the solution,” Branstad says. Broadlawns, the public hospital in Des Moines, is also going “smoke-free” on July 1st.