MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Sailors and civilian personnel employed at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital will soon have to change their tobacco habits while at work.
Beginning Jan. 1, military and civilian personnel will no longer be authorized to use tobacco products of any form while on naval hospital and all other naval medical care center grounds.
The policy will also go into effect aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.
Martha Hunt, the Health Promotions and Awareness coordinator at the hospital, said the move to ban tobacco from hospital grounds has been a long time coming.
“This process began in July 2008,” said the Pontiac, Mich., native. “In July, the Surgeon General of the Navy [Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr.] signed a policy encouraging the ban of all tobacco use on naval hospital campuses.”
In the document, Robinson challenged naval commanders and senior enlisted advisors to make the move to tobacco-free naval medical facilities quick and thorough.
“The unnecessary, harmful effects of tobacco on our service members and the burden on our healthcare system must be addressed,” said the Louisville, Ky., native in Navy Policy 09-009. “Our strong commitment to the health and well-being of our service members is most clearly evident by our own examples of a tobacco-free lifestyle.”
Once the policy is implemented aboard the Combat Center, all ash cans will be removed from hospital grounds.
For sailors, however, the ban of tobacco use on hospital grounds is not the only change they will face.
“Sailors won’t be able to use tobacco while in uniform,” Hunt said. “That means during working and duty hours, no sailor will be authorized to use tobacco even if they aren’t on hospital campuses.”
Civilian employees and Marines aboard the base will also be expected to adhere to the policy while on naval hospital grounds, including Base Aid Stations and other branch clinics, she said.
For some sailors who use tobacco, the policy will make getting through the working day a little harder.
“I think this is certainly going to make it more difficult for people to use tobacco,” said Lt. j.g. Sarah Bishop, a data analyst with the naval hospital who uses tobacco. “I also think people will go to great lengths to find a way around this.”
For Bishop, a New Orleans native, being able to smoke a cigarette is a way for her to relax and clear her head during stressful hours.
Bishop added once the new smoking areas are set up outside the hospital’s campus, civilian employees, who usually take numerous smoke breaks, will have to walk farther, taking time that will add up throughout the day.
Hunt said the Department of Defense is in essence a business, and when any business begins to lose money, it identifies and eliminates the problem.
“DoD medicine loses money eight to one on tobacco sales,” Hunt said. “For every dollar in sales on base, the DoD health care system loses eight dollars in tobacco related health care.
Besides the financial losses tobacco places on the military, officials are perhaps more concerned with the health risks it implies on service members.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States,” Hunt said. “Tobacco use causes cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, infertility and a wide range of other disabling conditions. It is also one of the leading detractors from combat readiness, impacting the healing of injuries, heat stroke, night blindness, [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], and others.”
Hunt said the naval hospital continues to provide assistance to Marines, sailors and their families who seek to quit using tobacco.
Marines and sailors can arrange appointments at the hospital where they can sit down for one-on-one counseling and be referred to their BAS to receive medications that will help them quit, she said.
She also said the hospital is slated to host the Great American SmokeOut, a comprehensive program that aims to reduce smoking and tobacco use by teens and adults, Nov. 19, beginning at 11:00 a.m. in classrooms one and two at the hospital. Colleen Hayden, the program manager for Project UNIFORM, an organization dedicated to helping active duty service members in California quit tobacco, is expected to attend the event to speak with base personnel.
For more information, contact Health Promotion & Wellness at (760) 830-2814 or email NHTP-tobaccofree@ med.navy.mil.