VA Palo Alto Helps Nonsmokers (and Smokers) for Great American Smokeout

The American Cancer Society’s 41st annual Great American Smokeout calls on smokers to make a plan to quit or light their last cigarette. VA Palo Alto Health Care System not only is working to help you quit but also working to make a healthier environment for everyone who visits our campuses. That is why this year we are announcing the next milestone on our road to a smoke-free campus!

On November 16, 2017, we consolidated all smoking at our Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Livermore divisions to one designated area per campus. Each of our community-based outpatient clinics are now completely smoke-free, meaning smokers will need to go off the property to smoke.

Why can’t we just smoke anywhere if we are outside?

Aside from the fact that our hospital is here to promote good health and make the best you, the facts about secondhand smoke are staggering enough to warrant this new policy. In case you aren’t convinced, here are facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and workplaces.
There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.
Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

Learn more from the CDC’s Secondhand Smoke Facts page.

How does the new policy affect smokers?

Smokers will need to go to a designated area or off the campus to smoke. Signage and instructions are now available at each division and information is available upon request at clinics. Smokers who violate the policy will now be fined by our local VA Police, Code of Federal Regulations (38 CFR 1.218).

How does this affect inpatient smokers?

Veterans receiving care on one of our inpatient units will be screened for smoking status and provided nicotine replacement therapy or other smoking cessation medications allowed by VA. Those able to safely make their way to the smoking shelter can do so. Under this new policy and Veterans Health Administration Directive 1085, staff are not required to escort patients to smoking areas, in order to protect their own health and not be exposed to secondhand smoke.

What resources are available to help people quit smoking?

We know it is not that easy to quit, which is why the Great American Smokeout highlights the free services VA offers for Veterans. Of course, we must practice what we preach, so we offer the same free services to our staff as well.

TeleQuit is the VA’s smoking cessation program that allows Veterans and staff to coordinate a plan to quit by phone. This easy to use service keeps you from making appointments and having to visit a clinic, while providing the same high-quality care, including free and confidential coordination to help you quit! This program has a six-month abstinence from smoking rate of 26%. The results are even comparable to visiting a physical clinic!

Veterans and staff can call (650) 493-5000, extension 60557 (Palo Alto) to get in touch with a smoking cessation coordinator, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Monday through Friday). You can also leave a message after hours to have someone reach out to you later.

Also available is SmokefreeVET, an automated text messaging service, by texting “VET” to 47848 to sign up and Stay Quit Coach, a mobile app that was designed to help Veterans quit tobacco, with tools and information specifically addressing the needs of Veterans with PTSD. Both are free for Veterans.

Thank you for helping us to make VA Palo Alto Health Care System a better place to receive care and if you have questions about our new policy, feel free to ask one of our staff!

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