Ashtrays a Thing of the Past at Permian Regional Medical Center

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ANDREWS--The hospital, like many across the Nation, is now smoke and tobacco free. They're also helping their smoking employees get through the day, without lighting up.

"You drive onto our campus, you park in our parking lot, you're on our property, which is considered a tobacco free facility," Tasa Watts, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, said.

The campus of Permian Regional Medical Center includes the hospital, a nursing home, and doctors offices.  Whether you're an employee, patient or visitor, keep those tobacco products at home.

Out of 360 employees, 70 are smokers.  Permian Regional Medical Center offers a smoking cessation program to give them a hand.

"As a hospital, we feel it is our obligation to help our employees through this, support them, as well as support the community in this effort to have a healthier lifestyle," Watts explained.

Watts added, the program offers everything from counseling, patches, gums, even discounted medications, "If the employee goes to a physician and they prescribe those medications to help them quit, the hospital pharmacy is providing those free of charge."

Cleo Cagle has been smoking for over 30 years.  She's also the hospital's Chief Financial Officer.  She thought it was her duty to set an example for her employees.  She's been 100% smoke free for over 2 months.

"Nobody smokes.  Nobody's breaking the rules.  The compliance for these new rules has been pretty phenomenal.  It's nice to come to a smoke free environment because I'm not around it at all.  I'm not thinking about it.  If it's out of sight, out of smell, you don't think about it," Cagel said.

Employees like Katherine Morgan used to think, a quick cigarette would be enough to calm them down. She's in her 6th week on the smoke cessation program.

"It really doesn't.  It feels good to go outside, have that smoke to cool off, but I think it's the actual time you take to go outside to cool off that's done it, because I'm one of the first ones to say 'I need a cigarette to cool off' and I really thought that it did work, but I don't get as agitated," Morgan said.

Almost 50% of the smoking employees are now taking part in the program.  Both Cagle and Morgan say their husbands are giving up tobacco in support of their efforts.  Watts says, the gratitude of the employees is just pouring out, "The excitement they have, they feel accomplished.  They've done something for themselves.  They're thankful to the hospital for what they've done to help them better their lives."