BANGOR, Maine — The Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center became a tobacco-free campus on Monday, which will require staff to leave hospital grounds in order to use tobacco products and will not allow patients to use them at all.
Superintendent Sharron Sprague indicated that the policy aligns with the hospital’s mission, and while it may be challenging for some, it is the right thing to do.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this country,” she said in a press release. “We are a healthcare institution and our job is to save lives and prevent disease, so becoming 100 percent tobacco-free not only makes sense, but it is key to our mission and our vision as part of the Bangor community.”
Moving to a tobacco-free campus has been a year in the making. The U.S. Surgeon General reports released in 2006 and 2010 indicated there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that even brief exposure can trigger a heart attack in people with pre-existing cardiac conditions.
“As our first priority, patients will be given resources, information and treatment to make them as comfortable as possible before, during and after their time at Dorothea Dix,” said Sprague. “No one, including employees, patients or visitors, will be asked to quit using tobacco, but everyone will be expected to follow the policy.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “the high smoking prevalence among persons with mental illness imposes a heavy burden in lost life expectancy and constitutes a major public health disparity in a uniquely vulnerable population. Persons with a mental illness who smoke are as interested in quitting as other smokers, are able to quit successfully, and benefit from evidence-based cessation treatments, although intensive and longer treatment sometimes is required.”
Sprague said she and her staff are committed to doing all they can to help people adapt to the policy. Patients will have a chance to discuss medication options with their doctors and receive individualized assistance, while a tobacco treatment specialist is available for employees.
“It is our responsibility to this hospital community to model healthy practices and policy,” Sprague said in the release. “Our tobacco-free policy is an extension of the many other policies we have in place to ensure our employees, patients and visitors are safe and as healthy as possible.”