Hospital to Begin to Test Staff for Smoking; 1 in 10 Smokers Hide Use from Doctor

smoking, lying about smoking, chronic bronchitis, smoke-free hospitals, quitting smoking
Smoking: don't do it!

Two interesting and somewhat related stories came out recently about smokers and their habits. In the first, a Pennsylvania hospital announced that it will no longer hire smokers and will begin to test its employees for nicotine use. The policy goes into effect February 1st at Geisinger Medical Center and its sister campuses in Danville. According to Geisinger, the “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region (is) the second-worst smoking metropolitan area in the U.S., pointing to not only an increased risk for lung cancer but an elevated risk of heart disease, too.” (Danville is about 30 miles outside that region.) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre citizens consume an average of 17 cigarettes a day.

Pennsylvania is among 19 states that allow employers to screen job applicants for signs of smoking, CNN reports. Smoking has been banned on the Geisinger campus since 2007. Smoking bans in the workplace are increasingly popular, no matter the field, and employees are being encouraged by their employers to quit because it saves them in productivity and health insurance costs.

So, let’s say you’re a smoker. Are you being honest about it? Or do you hide your smoking habits from loved ones, even your doctor? A related story says that a new study shows “13 percent of smokers don’t tell their doctor that they smoke, likely because they fear the social stigma that comes with being a cigarette-smoker.” Here’s why that’s a horrible idea:

If you can’t quit for health reasons alone, you might need to quit in order to keep your job (see above). What if you need medical treatment to help you quit smoking? Not to mention the obvious fact that your doctor might not look for smoking-related illnesses in you if he/she doesn’t know you smoke. I know what it’s like to get honest about your smoking habits. For years I considered myself a social smoker, but before I quit in 2009 I was buying my own packs and smoking them within a few days. Sure, I was never a 2-pack-a-day smoker, but you don’t have to be to feel smoking’s negative effects. I have chronic bronchitis now, which was likely brought on by my own smoking as well as the second-hand smoke I was surrounded by growing up. I just read recently that chronic bronchitis is one of the main forms of COPD, the other being emphysema.

It’s clear that my bronchitis was brought on by smoking, even though I was never a heavy smoker, because my last bout with it appeared after I snuck a few cigarettes during a particularly stressful week. And that’s something us smokers have to get honest about, too: even after you quit, it’s so easy to give in to temptation. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to go the entire year without smoking a cigarette. So far, so good. But it’s only Day 10. Wish me luck!

Photo via Flickr

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