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Tobacco Free Lee: November 17, 2011

It’s a sign of the times, and fair warning that smokers will have to take their butts somewhere else.

“Our slogan right now is that we are Caring People Caring for People, and if we’re going to be caring people caring for people then we need to make sure that our employees are as healthy as they can be,” says Brad Pollins, Director of Tobacco Free Lee.

And so two years ago this month, Lee Memorial Health System took the first step towards becoming a smoke free workplace.

“When we started this process, we had people smoking right outside the doors of our hospitals. So we wanted to move that away from the entrance of the building and make something that was consciously more difficult for everybody, so that they would know changes were happening,” says Sally Jackson, System Director of Community Projects for Lee Memorial Health System.

Moving designated smoking areas came three months into the process. In a clearly expressed timeline, worksite smoking ceased altogether, nine months later.

“We looked at our policies, benefits, our discipline processes, what we do for smoking cessation programs and make sure that education pharmaceuticals and any aids that we could provide to our employees were available.  So it was a multipronged approach in preparing for the go live date,” says Pollins.

When the health system first made this commitment, it was to cover their employees and their interests. Since then, they’ve seen their anti-smoking campaign light a fire under other businesses.

“We had the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades go tobacco free and many individual employers as well. Lee County government is in the process of going totally tobacco free and that gets communicated to everybody,” says Jackson.

The results are glowing. Two years ago tobacco use in the workplaces nationally was around 20%, compared to just over 8% within t he Lee Memorial Health System.

“Absolutely it is worth it. If you look at the data in terms of the productivity of employees the absenteeism the potential tardiness. I think if we have affected positively one life of our employees that certainly is worth it.

Helping others kick the habit is all in a day’s work.