The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) would like to commend Rainforest Recovery Center for creating a tobacco-free environment; a policy that will go into effect on July 1. Supporting Bartlett Regional Hospital’s endeavor to maintain a tobacco-free campus will help reduce the risks of using tobacco products, including the possible adverse effects on treatment, the risk of fire, and the risk of “passive smoking” for others.
“You have chosen to lead by example, and doing so will create a healthy environment for patients, visitors, faculty and staff,” said Edy Rodewald, SEARHC Health Educator. “While the initial decision to use Tobacco is a choice, its continued use is an addiction. As a community program with the mission for ending addictions, you are making a strong commitment to help reduce one of the strongest and deadliest addictions. Because secondhand smoke has also been linked to disease and deaths, you have also made a commitment to the entire community.”
Tobacco use caused more deaths in Alaska (592) in 2011 than from suicide, motor vehicle crashes, liver disease, homicide, HIV/AIDS and influenza combined. People who experience substance use disorders are disproportionately impacted by tobacco. Nationally, over 80 percent of people addicted to other substances also use tobacco. Over 75 percent of those in substance abuse facilities indicate that they want to quit using tobacco, which is in line with the rest of the population. Yet, the status quo in many substance abuse settings is to continue to support tobacco addiction.
Addressing and treating tobacco dependence in this underserved population is consistent with the purpose of substance abuse treatment and behavioral health staff has the skills they need to treat the addiction. Additionally, research has shown that client and program outcomes actually improve when people recover from tobacco addiction with no negative impact. The myth that smoking helps relieve stress was debunked by research that shows that tobacco does not alleviate stress but actually increases it. Finally, the literature also shows that clients are 25 percent more likely to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs than people who continue to use tobacco after completing treatment – an outcome worth pursuing.