By Kristen Schabert, Bavaria Health Command
VILSECK, Germany — Beginning this spring, Bavaria Health Command and its clinics will become Tobacco Free Medical Campuses. No smoking or tobacco use will be permitted on the clinic grounds, which extends to the parking lots and surrounding areas of each clinic in most cases.
The policy applies to all employees, patients and visitors at the clinics. Tobacco products and tobacco-related products will include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco (snuff, snus and chewing tobacco) and electronic nicotine devices such as e-cigarettes.
The new policy is being implemented in support of the Army Surgeon General’s Army Medicine Healthcare Covenant, which promotes Tobacco Free Living and implements Tobacco Free Medical Campuses. The initiative is also in support of the 2020 Department of Defense goal for creating a tobacco free workforce and installations. By becoming a Tobacco Free Medical Campus, the U.S. Army Medical Command policy is extending the tobacco-free zones from the current 50 feet to encompass the entire medical campus.
Tobacco use and smoking-related diseases are the leading causes of devastating, yet preventable and reversible, diseases in the United States. The Tobacco Free Living initiative is being implemented throughout MEDCOM to create a tobacco-free community that promotes the overall health of military personnel, family members, retirees and all employees on MEDCOM campuses, as well as protecting patients from second- and third-hand tobacco hazards.
Limiting tobacco use is not unique to military medicine. More than 3,700 civilian healthcare institutions have adopted tobacco-free campus policies, to include the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins. Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health & Human Services are also tobacco-free campuses.
Within DoD, an increasing number of Navy, Air Force and Army Medical Treatment Facilities have already implemented tobacco-free campus policies. Despite initial concerns, the transition to a tobacco-free campus has gone smoothly and is well-accepted by the majority of patients, visitors and staff.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center became a Tobacco Free Medical Campus in February. Other medical facilities operated and sustained by MEDCOM in Europe are scheduled to become tobacco-free no later than May 2016. Those MEDCOM facilities include Army Health Clinics, Army Veterinary Clinics, Army Dental Clinics, Army Wellness Centers, MEDCOM administrative facilities, and Army Public Health Command Europe.
The MEDCOM policy applies to all military, civilian, and contractor personnel assigned to and working for MEDCOM. Local National employees are exempt from this policy. Anyone seeking healthcare, visitors and people from other agencies or businesses that visit MEDCOM facilities and other campuses where MEDCOM facilities reside will also need to follow this policy.
For all MEDCOM service members and civilians who work at BHC clinics or other MEDCOM facilities, the policy means they can no longer use tobacco products during the duty day, with the exception of non-paid lunch breaks for civilian employees. Local Nationals will be allowed to continue their use due to the work force agreements in place with the host nation. Active duty service members assigned to MEDCOM will also be unable to use tobacco products at any time while in uniform.
Civilian employees, as well as visitors, will be required to smoke in designated areas outside the medical campus. Future designated areas in compliance with the new policy are only a few minutes’ walk from current designated smoking areas. Signs will be placed in current tobacco-use areas to direct people to the new designated areas.
Healthcare providers, health educators, tobacco facilitators, and Army Wellness Center staff are all trained to support employee and patient tobacco reduction and cessation efforts. Tobacco cessation services are available for TRICARE and non-TRICARE eligible beneficiaries by calling your local clinic or Wellness Center. Local National employees can seek treatment opportunities through their host nation Primary Care Provider.
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