About five months ago the last smoking shack on the Irwin Army Community Hospital campus closed – for good.
Although the ban on smoking in federal government buildings has been in force since 1997, Army Medicine is now taking the next step.
As of June 2015, IACH and its outlying clinics, the Dental Activity and Veterinary Services have banned the use of tobacco on their campuses, including the grassy areas that could be as far as 100 yards away from a medical facility.
In addition, Army Regulation 600-63 published in April 2015 prohibits the use of tobacco by military medical personnel while on duty or in uniform, regardless of location.
“These efforts are part of an Army Medicine leadership campaign to create momentum toward Tobacco Free Living,” said. Col. Paul Benne, the Fort Riley Department of Public Health Chief.
“We have a come a long way from a time when cigarettes were part of Army C-Rations. Over the years hospitals have been reducing the number of smoking shacks. Now we have reached a point where the last smoking shack at IACH has been sealed off,” Benne said.
“Tobacco Free Living not only promotes a healthy environment for patients, visitors and employees of the hospital, it also supports one of the Army’s top priorities – military readiness,” said Benne.
“Oral surgeons indicate that patients who do not use tobacco heal faster. Cardiovascular cases are more common for smokers. Soldiers perform better on a two-mile run after they quit smoking. And that’s only part of the look at the negative effects of tobacco on our Soldiers,” said Benne.
For IACH leadership, “promoting the standard of a tobacco-free environment is consistent with the Army Medicine goal of increasing healthy behaviors,” said Col. Risa Ware, IACH Commander. “Tobacco-free living is part of a larger strategy to improve medical readiness, along with the prevention of drug abuse and excessive alcohol use.”
Tobacco consumption is a key topic because of the high rates of Soldiers who smoke when compared with the general population.
About 18 percent of American adults aged 18 years or older smoke cigarettes compared to 30 percent of Soldiers. Smoking costs the Department of Defense an estimated $1.6 billion a year in medical care through increased hospitalization and missed work days resulting from smoking-related illnesses, said Benne.
“The biggest obstacle to reducing tobacco consumption is our culture. We have to counter it with another way of life – Tobacco Free Living. We start with our medical facilities and our medical personnel,” Benne said.
“Our tobacco-free campus policy has the potential to improve the health of thousands and support the goals of a medically ready force and a healthy resilient community,” said Ware. “Our policy is designed to create a tobacco-free workplace and healthy environment for our patients and visitors. Access to safe, quality care is at the heart of every decision we make.”
Ware said she recognizes the difficulty of quitting and for that reason medical support is available to TRICARE beneficiaries and Medical Department Activity employees. The IACH Army Public Health Nursing Clinic runs a four-week Tobacco Cessation Support Program beginning the first Thursday of every month 11 a.m. – noon, at Caldwell Clinic. It provides group counseling sessions and medication.
Fort Riley employees who are not TRICARE beneficiaries may participate in the coaching and counseling sessions.
Caldwell Clinic is located at Normandy Drive, Building 7665. To enroll in the Tobacco Cessation Support Program, call (785) 239-7323. The next session begins Jan. 7, 2016. Limited seats are available.