A place for healing, not smoking

April 27, 2017

I am very proud of the fact that Texas Children’s works so hard to promote a culture of health and wellness for our patients, families, employees and physicians. However, despite our best efforts I continue to receive complaints about a particularly challenging issue – smoking on or near the hospital campus.

Many of you know that I have fought against an outright ban of tobacco use at Texas Children’s, because I realize some patient families and staff smoke to cope with the tremendously challenging situations they face as caregivers. Yet, this is an important topic that clearly needs to be addressed.

Let me start off by sharing an important fact with you. Every year more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. You can imagine my concern when I continue to see so many people – both parents and employees – smoking outdoors, in the vicinity of our patients. The very patients we have taken into our care and promised to make better. It is so unfortunate to see a well-intentioned parent taking a patient out for fresh air and then, within minutes, lighting a cigarette near their child.

Now, I will admit to you that seeing an employee smoking any place near our patients and families is even tougher for me. I think of the impression being made on the children who see someone smoking who is obviously a Texas Children’s staff member or employee. We know these children and their families look to us as role models. More importantly, I am thinking of the impact of smoking, not only to their health, but to yours. Your health is just as important to me as that of the precious patients in our care. When you are in good health, you are here, where your teams and patients need you the most. When you are at your best, you can give patients and their families – and your own families – the very best, and isn’t that what we all work and hope for?

So I want to take this opportunity to remind you about the designated smoking retreats we have in place for employees and families. Though it is my heartfelt wish that you abandon the habit altogether, I know it isn’t easy, and that until you are ready to quit, all I can do is encourage you to follow the protocols we have put in place for your health and safety, as well as those of our patients and families. So when you see a colleague, parent or family member smoking outside of designated smoking areas or near our young patients, I encourage you to gently direct them to the appropriate areas. But also take a moment to remind them about the effects of smoking near our patients. It is critical that our families, our physicians, nurses and employees all work as a team at all times to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients’ healing.

I have seen people struggle to give up smoking and know how challenging it can be, so I understand it is more than just a notion. That is why Texas Children’s has invested in smoking cessation programs to help employees earnestly attempting to quit. We have a health coach in Employee Health and Wellness certified in chemical dependency (including tobacco) counseling. Our Employee Health Clinic can also refer you to resources that provide support while you are trying to stop smoking. And most recently, we partnered with MD Anderson to provide an extensive, long-term tobacco treatment program that has proven to be very successful. My hope is to provide you with as many options as possible because I understand there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

As you are thinking about what might work for you, I would like to give you something to help you start: Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I think this book can be a helpful tool, but more importantly, I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe you can do it. I believe you can put your health first and be your best self. When you are your best self you have the greatest potential for positively impacting patient outcomes. And it starts with making sure we take good care of ourselves and each other because we have a lot more to do together here at Texas Children’s!

Getting Started

If you would like to receive a copy of Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, please email Benefits and Well-being Director Jill Fragoso at jlfrago1@texaschildrens.org.

Click here for more information about Texas Children’s smoking cessation programs.

And if you have a colleague you think might need our help, please share this blog post with them.

Designated smoking areas:

  • 6651 Main (Pavilion/Tower E) – covered, colorful screened area along Fannin Street north of TMC entrance 9/driveway
  • 6621 Fannin (West Tower, Abercrombie Building, also designated for Wallace Tower and Feigin Tower) – patio area off of Abercrombie 1 North corridor, between TCH and CHI St. Luke’s
  • 1919 South Braeswood (Meyer Building) – wood fenced area at corner of building driveway, east of Meyer Building Shuttle Stop at Garage 19
  • 18200 Katy Freeway (West Campus) – covered, brick freestanding shelter near the Emergency Center parking and entrance.
  • 17600 Interstate 45 South (The Woodlands Campus) – covered, stone/metal screened area near the Emergency Center entrance.
  • 8080 Stadium Drive – small covered area with bench in parking lot

33 Responses to “A place for healing, not smoking”

  1. Chevelle Wilson

    Bravo! As a non-smoker I often feel disrespected, as the person smoking seems to disregard my choice not to be exposed to the chemicals in cigarettes. Thank you for your continued support of our patients and employees!!

  2. Veronika Javor

    This is my favorite blog post to date. I’m so honored to work for an organization that values the health of our patients and employees enough to make a bold statement about this issue and offer solutions to help.

  3. It would be great to have a campus map of these designated areas to post or at least share with our employees and parents. I have also seen the construction crews smoking, while not in the entryways or exits, I still pass ‘through’ them on the sidewalks. I am a former smoker and know how hard the struggle can be. I wish the best to anyone wishing to stop this unhealthy habit.

  4. Pamela Sonnier

    Thank you Mr. Wallace for your continued efforts towards our TCH family and our patients and their families to promote a healthy environment. I applaud you for re-affirming your heartfelt thoughts on the habit of smoking, however never to condemn or not show empathy to those that smoke, as I’m sure at some point they have tried or will try to over-come that habit.
    Thank you

  5. Irene Lomeda, MD

    I commend the efforts of our leaders to provide our employees different options to help with smoking cessation. This has truly mirrored the culture of this excellent organization which has always looked for the best interest of its patients and staff alike. I am proud to be a part of our Employee Health Clinic – so thank you Mr. Wallace !

  6. T. Racheal Proctor-Ezimako

    What an honor to witness our CEO- tackle “the elephant in the room”. I too would like to thank you for being concerned about our little ones and our peers. BRAVO! #thereishope4smokers

  7. T. Echavarria

    Thank you so much for this blog! As a non-smoker, and an asthma patient, I wish that TCH would be a Non-smoking facility. Although I know this is a big stretch of a dream, I thank you for taking the time to express your interest and concern for not only our patients, but all our staff as well. I would like to see more signage posted and maps for the designated smoking areas, and hopefully they are not in a high traffic entryway.

    Thank you again!

  8. L.Ramirez

    Thank you for this post! Very well written!
    I am curious about designated smoking areas for the construction working crew for Tower E Care First. There always seems to be at least five crew members smoking near the exit of the parking garage between TWU and PFW. As an employee and pregnant patient of PFW, it would be great if these people could be redirected to another area for smoking. Can anything be done about this?

  9. DK Lovick

    I absolutely LOVE this post! Not only do you address the important health concerns; but, recognize that some people may not know other methods of coping. I think that it is so important to help people realize there is a better way to deal with life stress than smoke. I think we can all agree it is bad… but then what? Kudos to you Mr. Wallace for addressing such an important topic.

  10. Ravi Mudaliar

    Mr. Wallace, I appreciate your stand and comments on this important topic/way of life. It would be nice to see if there can be an opportunity to place a curfew in the entire Texas Medical Center and as well as near Medical Services oriented area and School/Educational institution area.

  11. LaWanna Meade

    My 85 year-old father was diagnosed with Stage 3 laryngeal (voice box) cancer around October of last year, after 70 years of smoking. I took him to his appointment the day he was diagnosed and it was surreal when the doctor turned to him and said “Sir, you have cancer as a direct result of yoursmoking over the years.” At the point of his diagnosis he was already “choked out” and was within days of gasping for air in the middle of the night because he had absolutely no more room left to breathe and had to have immediate surgery to be trached. What a lifestyle change this was. All of a sudden, he couldn’t talk anymore (eventually he learned to talk a little with the trach and had it removed just last week, after 7 long, gruieling weeks of radiation, 5 days a week. I’m sure if he had it to do over again, he would have chosen to be a NONSMOKER. To those who haven’t met this fate yet, PLEASE STOP SMOKING while you can. The sooner you stop, the sooner you are on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Please heed the warning that’s right on the cigarette package that SMOKING CAUSES CANCER,

  12. Jennifer Abernathy

    I can understand the advice for employees to gently remind non-employees about the smoking areas. However, I really wish TCH would mandate that employees be smoke-free. It is a terrible example for families to see employees openly smoking, designated area or not. Employees who smoke bring in the cigarette odor on their clothes which is noticeable to families and other employees. If we had a mandate against employees smoking, then employees would either wear a patch or find other ways to deal with this addiction. Since employees can smoke at work, there is no true motivation.

  13. I know it must be difficult when someone has an addiction and can’t seem to stop the damaging behavior; however, I am very glad that our CEO has acknowledged that we are a health provider and therefore, it seems so counterintuitive to have to provide smoking areas near our facility – help is available. Thanks, Mark for calling attention to this non-healthy behavior which affects others.

  14. Richard Ridge

    Thank you for your thoughtful leadership on this difficult issue. Thanks for sharing your logic behind not embracing a complete ban due to your concerns for patient family members in their times of high stress. Mandates and prohibition often just drive behaviors underground. I especially appreciated your comments regarding TCH employees being role models for patients and families. Actions speak much louder than words in every aspect of our behavior. We owe it to our patients and families to be the best role models as possible in terms of hand-washing, interacting with compassion and caring with each other, and even embracing a commitment to address a tobacco addiction. I appreciate your positive approach in offering resources to our fellow employees who need help.

  15. Jasmine J.

    Thank you for being understanding of those who do smoke and understanding that this is a coping mechanism for people who may not have or know of any better way to cope. I am a non-smoker but I believe that smoking is an addiction and that stopping is a difficult task. while I do not feel that anyone should smoke near entrance/exit doors I think that designated areas are a great way to meet in the middle, and smokers should be responsible/considerate and only smoke in those areas. I appreciate working under a CEO who is open minded and cares for his employees’ and patients’ health.

  16. I think smoking area should be kept but remain away as not to bother other people. I realize the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke, and myself a former smoker also know how addicting smoking is But where do you draw the line on telling people what they can and cant do if they must smoke. The comment about making all TCH employee’s have to be tobacco free is not right. Example of that is that we all know the dangers of eating fatty foods is bad for us but what are we going to do get rid of the McDonalds and no more burgers and other fatty foods in all cafeterias in the hospital. I appreciate a CEO who is open to varying opinions and will come to a good decision on this issue.

  17. Having lost several family members to smoke related illnesses it’s a tragic illness to endure to the end of your days. Also as a former smoker several years ago it’s not easy to quit. There are several options out there and one must come to realize what is more important . . . the cigarette or your health and others around you? I had to make up my mind. “Who has control? Me or the cigarette?” Looking at that “cancer stick” as we called it back then I knew I had to stop! You can do it! It won’t solve your problems and it won’t calm your nerves and actually does the opposite. Educate yourself and make the move to end smoking in your life. The benefits are worth denying yourself the moment to smoke and will give you a lifetime of benefits!

  18. David E. Gebo, BSN, RN

    I come from a family of smokers, and I was fortunate never to have started. It’s difficult for me to breathe around smoke, and I do not allow smoking in my car or my home. After my father’s fatal heart attack in 2013 at the age of 69 (after smoking cigarettes for over 50 years), I am even less tolerant of the practice. Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for this post. The health dangers are real. As a place of healing and health promotion, we do need to be modeling the right behavior as much as possible.

  19. Ronnie Brewer, LMSW

    This is a very profound statement,
    “When you are at your best, you can give patients and their families – and your own families – the very best, and isn’t that what we all work and hope for?”

  20. JEANETTE MADISON

    We care so much about the patient, and also about the parents, and staff members that works here but you also as a parent and staff members should care about your health, after all you are coming here to get medical attention for your family member. And the staff are here to assist the patient and the parents. Thanks, Mr. Wallace ” hopefully this will open minds and hearts.”

  21. Cristal

    Thank you so much for this blog! This is a subject I hold dear to my heart as well. I work on the Kangaroo Crew and on a daily basis I have to ask visitors and staff to please smoke in the designated smoking areas, and explain to them the sick children that are coming through the area. I am always surprised to see how inconsiderate many people are. Thank you for the reminder and I hope everyone spreads the word to improve the health of our patients, visitors, and staff!

  22. Jennifer

    Thank you for addressing such a major issue with so much compassion. Quitting smoking is not easy but it is possible (I know, because I did). Thank you for partnering with MD Anderson and pointing people in the right direction. I’m happy to see the support you are giving to our patients, families and staff by the gentle reminder to smoke only in designated areas and slight nudge to quit smoking all together. Another great post by a great leader; thanks Mr. Wallace!

  23. Amit Bhatt, MD

    Thanks so much for such an excellent commentary on this important topic. There’s a saying “you can’t pour water from an empty glass”. We all need to take th best care of ourselves if we want to be able to take the best care of our patients!

  24. Amit Bhatt, MD

    There is at least one major difference between eating fatty foods and smoking. Eating fatty foods hurts only the person doing the eating, whereas smoking can even affect others around you, including those who have chosen to be non-smokers and children who have not gotten to choose for themselves yet.

  25. Chris G.

    The commitment to discouraging smoking and limiting the areas in which one may smoke on a TCH campus should be commended. As an employee and parent that will use TCH The Woodlands the location of the designated smoking area is very concerning. Since the facility opened I enjoy taking a walk around the beautiful campus on my lunch break. Every day as I walk by the ambulance bay I have to hold my breath in order not to breathe second hand smoke. As I turn the corner to the front of the building I continue to pass the front pedestrian entrance to the EC taking a quick breath attempting not to inhale second hand smoke. It is not until I am well past the entrance to the EC that I feel comfortable breathing clean air. It always crosses my mind what patient families must think as they arrive to the EC (by ambulance or pedestrian entrance) and are greeted with a face full of smoke. This is especially concerning for our patients with respiratory conditions. I strongly believe that the designated smoking area at The Woodlands Campus should be reconsidered.

    Respectfully,
    Chris G.

    • Christina

      I agree with you. I have a chronic lung bpd baby. Walking in to er with this right in our face is something i cannot stand. Also many people are smoking whereever and leaving buds on the floor makes the facility look really bad.

  26. I applaud the efforts and commitment here. That being said, I truly think the best example to set as one of the leading pediatric hospitals is to make the entire campus smoke-free. Realistically, parents (and employees) will still find a place to sneak off and smoke which ultimately can’t be avoided. However, I think making a statement by being smoke-free sends a strong message about what is truly important that unfortunately isn’t completely communicated by having designated smoking areas.

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