The UC Davis Health System will take an important step Tuesday, when smoking will finally be banned on the entire UCDHS campus.
It is refreshing that a leader in local medical practices is making such a strong statement about smoking – finally. While the action itself is worthy of praise, one wishes it could have come sooner; several local hospitals have had such bans in place for several months, while others have had such restrictions for over a year.
Bureaucratic tardiness aside, however, the committee that made the decision is worthy of kudos. It is utterly nonsensical for a medical institution of any kind to allow smoking to occur just outside its doors. Secondhand smoke has been proven to be lethal, and removing it from the general vicinity of a building full of the infirm is only logical.
When discussing the issue, some have raised the point that such a ban infringes on people’s rights. Shouldn’t they have a right to smoke when and where they want to? It’s a free country, after all.
The UC Davis Medical Center has a right to regulate what happens on its property, especially when it comes to protecting the interests of its patients. The center, and the health system as a whole, has a responsibility to be ever vigilant regarding the welfare of those under their care, and if that means having no smokers on the premises, so be it.
Others have argued that the policy could be amended so that there is simply no smoking by doors or windows – surely that would solve the problem, right? Well, not really. Disregarding the fact that there are already designated smoking areas in place around the hospital (which, one supposes, will be getting new signage fairly soon: “No Smoking in this designated smoking area“), asking people to stand a certain distance away and other similar solutions are too subjective. I most often see this policy in practice at the dorms or around Wellman Hall, and let me tell you, the number of personal interpretations of 20 feet I’ve seen is dizzying.
This new ban is fair, and will hopefully lead to similar action at hospitals and other medical institutions that don’t currently have such restrictions in place. Such bans are becoming increasingly important gestures; new federal data indicates that while teen smoking dropped fairly steadily from 1997 to 2003, those drops leveled off during the 2003 to 2007 period, effectively an increase in teen smoking.
This is depressing, especially considering that the manufacturers of the product regard it as unsafe for children and teens. It still hasn’t been made clear to me what exactly makes smoking healthy for adults, either, but be that as it may, both the federal data and the action on the part of the University of California show that smoking is still an important issue.
The gravity of the situation is being felt in Michigan, where lawmakers put off making a decision on a bill that would ban smoking at all workplaces until after their summer recess, partially because it’s an election year and the politicians don’t want to offend their constituents.
While one can appreciate the politicians‘ desire to be re-elected, harsh action toward the tobacco industry can be made without it being hostile.
For an example of this, we need look no further than the UC Davis Health System, which is making it easier for their workers to quit or at least deal with their cravings in light of the new policy. It would have been easy for the administration to take a stance of “You can’t smoke here anymore. Get over it,” but providing a cessation program for long-time employees who smoke is a nice gesture.
Making the world a better place isn’t easy, but to paraphrase Bill Murray in What About Bob?, it takes baby steps.
RICHARD PROCTER isn’t a big baseball fan, but he is an L.A. Dodgers fan, and feels like everyone should be aware that they beat the Angels 1-0 Saturday…without a single hit. E-mail him about how awesome the Dodgers are at email@example.com.