86th MDG campus goes tobacco-free

Compiled from staff reports
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 86th Medical Group commander, Col. Christine Taylor, will deem the medical campuses on Ramstein smoke free in accordance with Air Force Instruction 40-102, Tobacco Use in the Air Force.

The AFI necessitates MDG commanders protect the health and welfare of patients, employees and visitors by establishing tobacco-free areas throughout all facilities, parking areas and open spaces near the medical clinics or hospitals on Air Force installations.

Tobacco use includes, but is not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, stem pipes, water pipes, hookahs and smokeless products that are chewed, dipped or sniffed.

“This initiative targets tobacco’s adverse impact on readiness, overall health and health care costs,” Taylor said regarding her intent to make the mandate come to fruition for Team Ramstein. “Our goal is to establish a tobacco-free medical campus by May 31. This policy is important because tobacco use is inconsistent with the medical group’s role as disease prevention champions for Team Ramstein.”

The goal of the initiative is to change the Air Force culture and eventually eliminate tobacco use in the Air Force entirely.

“We have some medical functions that, for space reasons, are located outside the boundaries of the MDG campus,” said Lt. Col. Ann McCain, 86th Medical Support Squadron commander. “However, our plan is to use a phase-in approach with the ultimate goal of a tobacco-free installation.”

In the interim, designated tobacco areas remain the only authorized locations for tobacco use, both smokeless and smoked. The AFI sets specific standards for designated tobacco areas, and the installation commander, Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde, also the 86th Airlift Wing commander, is the approval authority for these areas.

“Ideally, DTAs shall be away from common points of any facility entry and not in front of buildings or air intake ducts,” McCain said.

Additionally, DTAs will be established 50 feet or more from facilities. Signs and maps will be provided to define the boundaries of the MDG campus and indicate the nearest DTA.

The policy is based on an industry standard among medical facilities worldwide.

“Today, more than 3,400 civilian medical centers have established smoke-free campus policies,” said Col. John Oh, the Air Force Medical Support Agency chief of health promotion in December 2012. “Smoke-free policies have emerged as the social norm at medical centers. These policies increase worker productivity, help tobacco users to quit, and protect the health of others, including vulnerable populations. The use of tobacco products decrease productivity and physical endurance and contributes to muscle weakness, among other symptoms.”

The step is a natural progression for the medical industry and a transition based on society’s understanding of the negative health effects of tobacco use. This is even more vital in the military environment, where a service member may be called upon at a moment’s notice to deploy.

“The 86th MDG strives to provide premier patient-centered health care while supporting readiness through care and preventative services. Implementing this initiative is a step toward our longstanding tradition of outstanding care for America’s heroes and their families,” said Col. Frederick Grantham, 86th MDG deputy commander.

In addition to requiring medical campuses to eliminate smoking areas, the instruction, released in March 2012, expands tobacco-free environments, clarifies tobacco use restrictions in training environments and prohibits tobacco sales in some Air Force establishments.