Upstate University Hospital will be offering nicotine replacement therapy to visitors to help curb their smoking habits starting next Friday. The hospital prohibits smoking within 100 feet of its buildings.
Director of Employee Student Health at Upstate Jarrod Bagatell says they used to give people information about how to quit smoking, but one encounter changed that.
“One day I’m walking past the emergency department and there’s a gentleman smoking,” Bagatell said. “I asked him if he was aware of our smoke-free policy, and he started to cry. And he said, ‘I just need to smoke because my wife is in the emergency room now having a stroke.’ And at that moment, I realized what this gentleman did not need was a coupon for a salad or a soup. What he needed was compassionate care.”
At the time, he says, there was no other option, so Bagatell decided to extend Upstate’s employee nicotine replacement therapy to its visitors.
“We’re hoping that offering this opportunity will not only allow them the comfort with the compassion that they need as guests here, but they’ll experience nicotine replacement therapy, perhaps for the first time. It may take them from an opportunity where they never thought about quitting to now, ‘Wow, I can do this,’” Bagatell said.
They are piloting a 90 day program starting April 20th called ‘Kick-Butts,’ which will give people a comfort kit that includes two four milligram nicotine replacement lozenges. Bagatell hopes this will reduce the cigarette butt clean-up.
“Last year when we did it, we walked around campus for one hour, and we collected 10 quarts of cigarette butts."
Bagatell says it takes the average smoker five or six tries to quit successfully. He also thinks seeing people use e-cigarettes is harmful.
“For those people who truly work here and are struggling with quitting smoking, seeing a visual of somebody putting a cigarette product type near their mouth is somewhat rude and literally in your face,” Bagatell said.
E-cigarettes are also included in the hospital’s smoke-free policy. People will also find information in the kits about Upstate’s services, including its lung cancer screening program.