St. Agnes Hospital's 1978 ban on smoking a 'bold step'

On July 1, the Community College of Baltimore County will ban the use of tobacco products on its campuses except in designated areas.

The University System of Maryland implemented a smoking ban with a vote by its Board of Regents on June 22, according to Anne Moultrie, the system's vice-chancellor of communications.

Compared to St. Agnes Hospital, however, both school systems are well behind the no-smoking curve.

In 1978, the hospital limited smoking to select areas of its campus at the intersection of Caton and Wilkens avenues.

"I think when we had the policy, back in 1978, this was considered a pretty bold step," said James Bobbitt, vice president of human resources for St. Agnes Healthcare.

In fact, St. Agnes eliminated the designated smoking areas about five years ago and is now completely smoke free, Bobbitt said.

"It's a major cause of death in this country," Bobbitt said. "We're looking to keep our environment safe and healthy for everybody."

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control, 46.6 million American adults smoke and 88 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke that contributes to about 440,000 smoking-related deaths.

Bobbitt said employees are instructed to politely remind smokers that it's forbidden on the campus.

If an employee is caught smoking on campus, they receive an escalating set of punishments that start with a verbal warning and can end with termination, Bobbitt said.

The hospital offers cessation classes for its employees and understands that smoking is addictive.

Bobbitt said the hospital's current policy doesn't address smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco or snuff, but usage of the substances might be addressed at an upcoming meeting.

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