Up in smoke: UPMC takes the right course on tobacco

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In the 1960s, there was a TV commercial for a brand of cigarettes that used the motto, “I’d rather fight than switch.” In the ad, a smoker with a black eye tells his friends that his favorite brand is worth fighting for.

Fast forward to the 21st century. UPMC, the region’s largest health care network, is determined to have a workforce that would rather quit smoking than not work for UPMC. The guy with the black eye in the TV ad would be shocked.

In 2013, UPMC informed its 62,000-person workforce that it would ban all smoking by personnel during their work hours both on and off UPMC property. The policy took effect Tuesday and covers employees, students, volunteers and contractors.

In the past year, hundreds of UPMC employees have entered smoking cessation programs. Unlike other hospital systems, UPMC has not barred the hiring of smokers, but it requires them to abide by the no-smoking rules and encourages them to try quitting. This is to be applauded.

Health care workers in all capacities are part of an enterprise committed to helping people maintain their health or improve it. In banning smoking by all of its personnel, UPMC is demonstrating adherence to its core mission.

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