Harford's hospitals will be even more 'tobacco free' in 2015

Can't smoke get a job at Harford hospitals after July 1

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, a tobacco product ban in effect at both University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health hospital campuses in Harford County will become even more stringent, and as of July 1, 2015, Upper Chesapeake will not hire anyone who uses tobacco, the health care company said this week.

Upper Chesapeake is Harford County's largest private employer, with more 3,100 employees, according to the most recent fact sheet posted on the organization's website. Hospital admissions, emergency room and outpatient visits to the two campuses exceed 285,000 annually.

The buildings and grounds of the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, as well as "any vehicles owned, leased or operated by UM UCH," are tobacco free, according to the existing Upper Chesapeake policy posted online.

Under the new policy, however, people cannot use any tobacco products in vehicles that are parked on the health system's properties in Harford, regardless of whether they are employees or visitors.

"The major change in the policy is that the use of tobacco products will no longer be allowed in parked vehicles," Elizabeth English, marketing coordinator, said.

Upper Chesapeake officials announced the policy changes Monday.

"A tobacco-free environment puts patients, visitors and employees first by providing a healthy, tobacco-free atmosphere, encouraging both patients and employees to quit tobacco use, and lowers long term health care costs," Upper Chesapeake President and CEO Lyle Sheldon said in a statement.

Employees, patients, visitors and volunteers cannot smoke or carry "a burning cigarette, cigar, pipe, electronic cigarette or other tobacco product" in either hospital, in the Kaufman Cancer Center, the Klein Ambulatory Care Center – which are also on the Bel Air campus – or any other Upper Chesapeake building or vehicle, according to the current policy.

When it implements the policy July 1, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health will join two other Maryland hospitals, Carroll Hospital Center in Carroll County and Anne Arundel Medical Center, in no longer hiring candidates who use tobacco products, according to the announcement.

The Upper Chesapeake hiring policy applies to anyone hired after July 1, and any employee who uses tobacco now "will be grandfathered," the announcement states.

The health system helps its employees quit using tobacco with classes, coaching and "pharmaceutical aids." Those pharmaceutical products are available for free to anyone who is covered under a UM UCH health insurance plan.

The tobacco use policies are part of a long-term effort by Upper Chesapeake officials to build a "wellness program and its goal of being a completely tobacco-free environment," according to the announcement.

"Although these changes will be a challenge for some, we have an opportunity to serve as a model for other employers in working to achieve better health," Sheldon said. "We are one step closer to achieving our vision of creating the healthiest community in Maryland."

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