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Meridian Employees Can't Smoke on Duty

Nov 30

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Monday, November 30, 2015  RssIcon

Meridian Health Services has adopted a tobacco policy that it hopes other workplaces will implement: no designated smoking areas and employees not permitted to smoke while on the clock.

The policy stops just short of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital's rules that prohibit employees from smoking even during breaks/lunch hours.

"We've not gotten to the point like the hospital where we say to employees if you smell like smoke you have to go home," said Jacey Foley, director of tobacco control at Meridian, which has taken over from the county health department as the lead agency for the Tobacco Free Coalition of Delaware County.

Effective Nov. 1, Meridian banned smoking in all outdoor areas, including inside cars on Meridian property. There are no longer any designated smoking areas. When not on the clock, employees can smoke or use tobacco products but they are expected to be good ambassadors and not litter neighboring properties, streets or sidewalks.

Smoking had been permitted 25 feet from doorways at Meridian, which provides medical care, counseling, addiction, homeless and other services out of 29 facilities in 10 Indiana counties. The main campus is in Muncie, including the Suzanne Gresham Center, Meridian Health Pediatrics, Meridian MD, Merdian Senior Health and Child Advocacy Center.

The ban includes chew, snuff, spitless tobacco and e-cigarettes, but not nicotine patches, gum or lozenges.

"Smoking was something we were permitting that goes against our mission," Foley said. "We are a health organization. Smoking is an addiction. When you think of addiction, you think of Meridian because of their reputation in the community."

IU Health BMH's policy for employees states "no tobacco use during work hours, including breaks," spokesman Neil Gifford told The Star Press. "Any odor or evidence of tobacco use can have an impact on the health of patients. In a 'Patient-First' culture, there's no room for tobacco use by our team of caregivers. The science is conclusive: secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory illness and many other … diseases." The hospital became smoke free in 2006.

Ball State University's tobacco-free policy, which went into effect in 2013, permits smoking in personal vehicles with windows rolled up and at designated tailgating areas at home football games.

"There are fewer places to smoke, so why not Quit?" reads a poster in Foley's office. "Cal 1.800,QUIT.NOW for help. It's free. It's confidential. It works."

If Meridian employees see anyone smoking on campus, they have been instructed to be polite, assume the person doesn't know about the policy and say, "Meridian Health Services does not allow tobacco use on campus. Please put out your cigarette and dispose of it." If the person continues smoking, "walk away. If you believe the smoker poses a safety threat, move to a safe place and do not pursue any further, report the threat when it is safe to do so."

Public housing is the next likely site to implement a tobacco policy. Foley said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued a proposed rule to prohibit lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas and administrative offices.

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