Inpatients continue to smoke during hospital stay

While some hospitals are turning away job applicants who smoke, new research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that roughly one in five patients who smoked before admission continued to light up while hospitalized.

Overall, 18.4 percent of smokers reported cigarette use during their hospital stay, according to an observational study in a large urban hospital. However, that's down from the 25 percent of inpatients who smoked during hospitalization 10 years earlier, the researchers noted.

"Like other aspects of tobacco control, this study shows us how far we have come and how much more needs to be done," Steven Schroeder, a physician at the University of California San Francisco, wrote in an invited commentary.

Allowing patients, employees and visitors to smoke outdoors on hospital grounds can compromise patient safety, hospital efficiency and clinical outcomes. For instance, it exposes patients to cold and wet weather, reduces availability for necessary treatments and causes delays in wound healing, MedPage Today reported.

To limit tobacco use, hospitals can routinely order nicotine replacement therapy at admission and continually ask patients about their cravings throughout their stay. The researchers also suggested hospitals extend a smoking ban to all outdoor areas surrounding the hospital and implement rules that prohibit patients from leaving the hospital building so they can't sneak out for a smoke.

Such tobacco-free strategies showed real results at the Cleveland Clinic, whose ban on hiring smokers led to the number of self-reported smokers dropping from 15.4 percent to 6.8 percent over five years, the Clinic's Chief Wellness Officer Michael Roizen told FierceHealthcare in a previous interview.

To learn more:
- check out the JAMA study and commentary
- read the MedPage Today article