Smokefree Pennsylvania congratulates UPMC for its new policy to protect patients, visitors and workers from involuntary tobacco smoke exposures in its facilities. Most smokers don't realize that they continue exhaling secondhand smoke for more than a half hour after smoking each cigarette.
Prohibiting smoking during breaks for health care workers improves patient care and is a far more reasonable employment policy than refusing to hire smokers, which some health care systems have done. UPMC's new policy is also legal as long as it doesn't violate collective bargaining agreements, which can be renegotiated.
But since smoking creates all the smoke and is 100 times more hazardous than the use of smoke-free tobacco/nicotine products, UPMC's ban on the use of electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is an unwarranted and counterproductive gift to Big Pharma. Food and Drug Administration-approved nicotine gums, lozenges and patches have a 95 percent failure rate for smoking cessation, while varenicline (Chantix) increases risks of heart attacks, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Since electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products have already helped several million smokers quit, UPMC should encourage and allow smokers to use these smoke-free alternatives as long as their usage doesn't interfere with patient care or other job duties.