Smokers Sound Off On Tobacco Ban At Andrews Hospital

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

ANDREWS - Another West Texas hospital is putting the brakes on tobacco. They're banning all smoking and dipping anywhere on the property. The Permian Regional Medical Center (PRMC) in Andrews is the next to go Tobacco Free. They said it's part of a state and nationwide trend. However, some smokers said the trend is forcing them to kick the habit.

"It's everywhere. It's not just the hospitals. It's everywhere," Katherine Morgan, an Andrews Hospital employee and smoker, said. "There's a lot of people that don't even want to come around you if they see you with a cigarette."

It's not unusual to find Katherine Morgan and Tracy Herron taking regular smoke breaks at the Permian Regional Medical Center in Andrews. However, they may give up cigarettes entirely after hosptial officials announced everything inside and out will be smoke free.

"When we do want to have a cigarette, where are we going to have to go to smoke it?" Morgan asked. "So, to me, out of all of it, I feel like we're more or less being pushed to quit. I mean, where are you going to go to smoke?"

The Andrews hospital is one of many facilities throughout West Texas following the state and even nationwide trend. Even in Odessa, the debate continues over whether to ban tobacco in city parks.

"It's not just the hospital pushing it, it's everywhere," Morgan explained. "You can't smoke in a restaurant, you have to be so many feet from any facility to have a cigarette, they're raising the taxes, you can't afford them. There is a combination of things that's actually pushing us to quit. They're trying to make smokers quit."

Hospital officials told NewsWest 9, the idea is to promote healthier lifestyles and to set the example.

"We will be providing medications as well as counseling services," Tasa Watts, Director of Marketing and Public Relations with PRMC, said. "If they would like to quit. We are not making anyone quit. It's a choice. If you want to quit, we will provide the help to quit. If you don't want to quit, you just can't smoke on campus. You can go elsewhere to smoke."

For other PRMC employees, like Tracy Herron, kicking the habit will be a challenge. However, she said the ban may be the little push she needs to make her life healthier.

Hospital officials in Andrews said their ban will go into effect in January. They said they already have several dozen employees signed up to get help to kick the habit. Hospitals in Midland and Odessa have already made the switch to tobacco-free campuses.