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Area Hospitals Helping Staffers Extinguish Smoking Habit

Posted November 27, 2006
Updated November 28, 2006

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— Even on a rainy day, some WakeMed employees can't stay inside.

They take smoking breaks under an outdoor gazebo that's also open to patients and visitors.

WakeMed nursing student Leslie Pask admits it doesn't fit the typical image of a hospital.

"You work at a hospital and are trying to help people, and it doesn't look too good when you're out there smoking with a cigarette," Pask said.

Pask has tried to quit, but nothing has truly worked, she said.

Now, there's added incentive, with WakeMed and other Triangle hospitals (including Rex Health Care, UNC Hospitals and Duke University Medical Center) going smoke-free next summer. For employees, the hospitals are offering special classes and nicotine replacement medications at half price.

Helping employees kick the habit is nothing new, but a smoking ban that begins July 4 is.

"Workplace smoking bans are one of the biggest motivators to get people to quit smoking," said Dr. Jana Johnson, a pulmonary specialist who works with smoking-cessation programs.

Johnson said nicotine replacement pills or a newly approved drug, Chantix, can double a smoker's chance of quitting.

"Chantix is a pill that's taken that blocks nicotine receptors, and it also mildly stimulates nicotine receptors," Johnson said.

So, the cravings are not as bad, and cigarettes do not have the same effect.

"And (that) makes it easier to give up entirely," Johnson said.

That's what Pask wants to do so she can practice what she would like to preach to patients. She doesn't like the thought of failing when the smoking ban starts.

"I might have to sneak off to the parking lot and, you know, sit in my car if I can't quit," she said.

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