GEORGE NEWS - On Friday 31 May, the World Health Organisation and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day to raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
The theme for this year's World No Tobacco day is "Tobacco and lung health".
While most smokers are well aware of the dangers of tobacco use, many find it difficult to quit the habit. There are 12 employees at George Hospital, however, who can boast that they have been smoke-free for one month.
After an information session in December 2018, the hospital board agreed to pay for 24 employees to take part in its smoking cessation programme, which is run according to the South African Tobacco Smoking Cessation Clinical Guideline and includes recommended medicines.
As staff were treated on a first-come-first-served basis, some had to be put on a waiting list.
The bookings were organised by wellness nurse Arlene Visser. Dr Hermann Reuter, coordinator of the UCT student programme and volunteer with the Smoking and Alcohol Harms Alleviation and Rehabilitation Association (Sahara), an NGO active in George, consulted the staff and dispensed the required medication.
All staff were followed up for the three months that medication was supplied. A follow-up at six months will determine if the non-smoking lifestyle has been sustained.
The reasons for organising the programme are extensive and include preparing for a tobacco-free hospital, improving employee health, enhancing employee satisfaction, increasing productivity, having a smoke-free hospital and more.
The intervention was a collaboration of George Hospital's management, the hospital board, the staff clinic, the UCT in Eden Project and Sahara.
"I have been smoking a packet a day for more than 10 years and have decided that I was ready to quit. It has also become too expensive," said Heidi Abrahams, assets clerk. Eric Hess, a theatre nurse who had a 40-a-day habit for the past 20 years, decided to quit after seeing the impact of tobacco on patients.
Dr Reuter said, "The smoking cessation programme forms part of the wellness programme at George Hospital and is a step towards a tobacco-free hospital.
"The staff members that participated are extremely grateful for having been given this opportunity and are elated about having succeeded to quit. Many of them have been smoking for more than twenty years.
"Many have embarked on other lifestyle changes - more exercising, better stress management and healthier nutrition. Patients and staff have the right to clean air in our environment and to be protected from secondhand smoke.
"Progressively more hospitals worldwide are becoming smoke-free. Smoking cessation medication works and can change and ultimately save lives and is a cost-saving intervention".
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