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Smoking banned from Albany hospitals

November 18, 2004

Albany-- Two hospitals ban smoking on their campuses. Oncologist Dr. Terry Kraus says, "I think hospitals have to send a message first and the message is we won't tolerate smoking in public places."

Palmyra Medical Centers and Phoebe Putney Hospital chose today to enact their smoking bans. That's because today is the Great American Smokeout, an American Cancer Society Initiative asking millions to go cold turkey for one day. But, for these two hospitals this smokeout is permanent and it's a tough pill for some to swallow.

For Tim Aultman, this smoke is his only stress relief, "It is a good friend, you are on edge, you don't know what is happening, a lot of times the doctors can't tell you something right away and your nerves are on edge."

On edge, because Tim's wife has been at Phoebe Putney Hospital a month. She is being treated for lung cancer. Now, to get a little relief, Tim has to walk a long distance.

Assistant Vice President of Oncology, Tom Bell, says "Smoking really can't happen here. This is an area of health, this is an area of healing, and we want to encourage everything that contributes to health and healing."

Across Phoebe Putney, signs advertise the new smoke-free campus. Employees are even wearing special "smoke-free" pins, a change this long time oncologist supports. Dr. Krauss says "We can decrease cancer in general, not just cancers of the lung, but cancers in general by 70 percent if we will just simply stop smoking."

But, for people like Tim, quitting is too difficult right now, "I am eventually going to quit smoking anyway because she has lung cancer and to support her I will have to do that but that is my choice."

"It is a highly addictive substance and I can understand how that fellow feels. It is not the stress, that poor soul is addicted to nicotine," says Dr. Krauss.

An addiction that won't be supported by the hospital any longer. The benches where smokers use to congregate are gone now--only a few cigarette butts remain.

For the last three months, Phoebe Putney has offered support programs to help their employees quit smoking, even handing out nicotine patches.

Major hospitals in Tifton, Valdosta, Thomasville and across Southwest Georgia have already enacted the smoking ban.

Posted at 4:25 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com