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July 10, 2014

UPMC smoking policy affects some Pitt employees

Some Pitt employees will find that the new UPMC no-smoking policy affects them too, depending on which organization owns their building and employs their supervisor.

Neither Pitt nor UPMC officials could pinpoint exactly how many Pitt employees may be affected by the policy, which went into effect July 1. UPMC employees are being asked to be smoke- and tobacco-free during their workdays — neither to smoke nor to smell like smoke while on duty or even on their breaks.

The effort is intended to boost the health of staff members and all people who use UPMC facilities.

At Pitt, smoking “is prohibited in all University-owned and leased facilities and in all University vehicles” but is permitted in designated smoking areas, according to the Provost’s office.

Lisa Bonacci, vice president of human resources operations at UPMC, says UPMC and Pitt staff members overlap in buildings that have a medical focus, from UPMC CancerCenter and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic to the School of Medicine in Scaife Hall and Pitt departments that conduct research.

Bonacci says there are three main scenarios in which Pitt employees may be affected by the new anti-smoking effort, including in a managerial role:

• In a UPMC-owned facility housing a Pitt-managed department: “It’s not under our control. They can’t smoke on (the UPMC) campus,” but Pitt employees will not be held accountable for being smoke-free. If a Pitt employee smokes and is managed by a UPMC supervisor, he/she can’t smoke on the UPMC campus but won’t be forced to go without smoking while on breaks.

• In a Pitt-owned facility housing a UPMC-managed department: “We hold our staff members accountable to our policy. We would hold (Pitt staff members) accountable to not smell like smoke or use tobacco during their shift, just as we’d hold Pitt employees to any of our policies. …” If a Pitt employee works directly under a UPMC manager, he/she will be held accountable for not smoking or smelling like smoke while on duty.

• For UPMC employees working for Pitt managers: UPMC staff members still would be held to UPMC policies, “but will the Pitt manager hold them (to the policies)? It’s not going to be perfect.

“Obviously, our security personnel would enforce this if it’s out on (UPMC’s) campus,” Bonacci added.

In a statement reacting to UPMC’s rule change, Pitt Staff Association Council President Rich Colwell said: “The new UPMC smoking policy will affect Pitt staff both indirectly and directly depending on where they work. For those (Pitt) staff members in a UPMC-owned or -leased building, they will have to comply. It is important that Pitt staff understand the policy fully and respect UPMC policies, as they are trying to help their patients.

“We understand that there may be obstacles in the way, and UPMC is willing to work with people to sort those out,” Colwell added.

Bonacci said UPMC employees have taken advantage of several ways being offered as aids for quitting smoking: telephone coaching; daily motivational texts, and personal health coaches.

UPMC also has waived the copay for its employees trying nicotine gum and other methods for kicking the smoking habit.

The new policy, she says, has had “mixed reviews, but overall the comments from our employees have been pretty positive.”

—Marty Levine