Journal News: White Plains Hospital snuffs out last smokers refuge

(November 19, 2010)

LoHudMasthead

November 19, 2010

WHITE PLAINS — The "butt huts" and ashtrays are all

snuffed out.

White Plains Hospital Center removed them from the
grounds Thursday as the hospital participated in
the American Cancer Society's 35th annual Great
American Smokeout by banning smoking
throughout the property.

"It's another layer of us saying we're not just here
for sick people, we're here to prevent people from
getting sick," said Jon Schandler, president and
chief executive officer of the hospital.

Despite decades of dire medical warnings of the
health risks of smoking — it contributes to cancer,
heart disease and other top causes of death and
kills approximately 440,000 Americans each year —
46 million Americans are smokers, according to the
American Lung Association.

But they are increasingly finding fewer places to
light up, as municipalities continue to add to the
types of locations — public and private — where
smoking is banned and private employers take it
upon themselves to limit smoking.

And soon smokers will be hard pressed to ever say
they didn't know of the dangers.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration
unveiled 35 graphic images — including blackened
lungs and corpses with the slogan "Smoking Can
Kill You" — that could end up on cigarette
packaging.

The nine finalists will be selected in June and
cigarette companies must include the images on
their packages by October 2012.

Until now, the packaging only had to warn that
cigarettes can cause disease and complicate
pregnancy.

At White Plains Hospital Thursday, signs were put
up promoting it as a tobacco-free and smoke-free
environment, apples were given out as a good-
health alternative and several employees were given
frozen turkeys for giving up smoking through the
Cold Turkey Challenge.

Among those who attended the brief ceremony in
the hospital's lobby were local officials from the
American Cancer Society, the American Heart
Association and the American Lung Association.

"Because of this action today, your staff, patients
and visitors will all be able to start breathing
easier," said Scott Santarella, president of the
American Lung Association in New York.


Nearly two years ago, Northern Westchester Hospital
in Mount Kisco became the first medical center in
the county to go completely smoke-free.

Westchester Medical Center kicks off its smoke-free
initiative on Jan. 1, banning all tobacco products
from its campus, garages and events it sponsors.
The hospital will cover the cost of American Cancer
Society's Quit for Life program for all employees,
their spouses and adult dependents and pay for an
8-week supply of nicotine patches or gum.

Smoking has been banned inside White Plains
Hospital Center since 1992. But smokers could
stand outside the doors or congregate at the butt
huts, one just off Maple Avenue, the other a 50-yard
walk from the main entrance. There was no effort to
make them uncomfortable, as wooden benches were
provided.

The numbers of regular smokers had dwindled over
the years, said Ossie Dahl, the hospital's vice
president of facilities, and now they'll have to move
further away from the building.

Dahl was on the committee that planned the
anti-
smoking efforts, so he figured he should practice
what he was preaching and give up smoking for
good.

He said he smoked "on and off for 30 years, mainly
on" and that he went a long stretch where a pack
and half a day was the norm.

"I feel good. I put on some weight, so I don't feel so
good about that, but I'm breathing better, sleeping
better and I feel a bit more vibrant," said Dahl, a
hospital employee for 32 years who got his turkey
Thursday after four months without a cigarette. "I'm
taking the stairs more, and my mouth isn't as nasty.
I brush my teeth two or three times a day now,
instead of five or six like I was."

His best stint as an ex-smoker was 13 months
following acupuncture eight years ago. This time
will be for good, he hopes, and the hospital's effort
will help him and others.

"It makes it much harder to have a cigarette here.
And it makes a lot of sense because people were
coming here for health care and they had to walk
through plumes of smoke right outside," Dahl said.

The occasional smoker could still be seen
Thursday, just a little further from the building than
before. Instead of going to the butt hut, Ray
Lampitok took a break from work in the food
services division by smoking at the curb behind the
hospital on Maple Street.

"Every hospital is inching towards this. I can
understand it," said Lampitok, who said he has tried
quitting to no success over the years. "I'm a
hopeless case I guess."

The hospital's assistant director of development,
Alicia Horton, was also a turkey winner. A smoker
since high school, she said she never got serious
about quitting until she caught pneumonia in early
September.

"I think it's pretty cool what they've done," said
Horton, saying not seeing smokers in the immediate
proximity of the building will definitely help those
who have quit. "It was a hard thing to give up; I have
my moments. I take my mind off it by doing other
things."