SSM Health Care has undertaken strong stances in favor of a tobacco-free environment.
In 2004, SSM Health Care became the largest health-care system to date to go tobacco free when its facilities in four states eliminated tobacco use Ė both inside and out.
SSMís move to go tobacco-free was praised by then U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and health-care organizations including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association. Hospitals in Missouri and Oklahoma followed SSMís lead.
The conversion to a smoke-free environment involved developing materials for patients and visitors about the initiative; developing physician protocols for patients who smoke; reimbursing employees for smoking cessation classes; and offering smoking-cessation pharmaceutical benefits to employees covered by an SSM medical plan. SSM offers employees who declare they are tobacco-free a taxable $60 reimbursement annually provided they are participants in SSM's health-care medical plans.
"As a health-care organization, we firmly believe that we must offer the healthiest environment possible for our patients, employees and visitors," Sister Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, former SSM Health Care Chair/CEO said in announcing the initiative.
Effective July 1, 2011, SSM implemented a tobacco-free hiring policy at all SSM facilities in Missouri.
"As a health-care provider, we need to take a leadership role on these major public health issues," Sister Mary Jean said in 2011. "Not hiring tobacco users is a first step toward creating a healthier workforce, and mandatory flu vaccinations will help protect our patients, our colleagues and their families."
The tobacco-free hiring policy only applied to new employees and not to current employees. Under the new policy, all individuals who apply for a position with SSM Health Care facilities in Missouri are asked on their online application if they have been tobacco-free for six months. If they say no, the application process will not go forward.
"The American Heart Association congratulates SSM Health Care for adopting a tobacco-free hiring policy," said Jace Smith, American Heart Association government relations director Ė Missouri. "Tobacco-free hiring is an important public health measure that will create a healthier work environment."