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NIH Smoking Policy Enters Next Phase

You may notice that some new "Smoke-Free Area" signs are posted around campus. These signs are part of the next phase in NIH's smoking policy, which was updated and signed by NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus. Using lighted tobacco products is not permitted in or near smoke-free areas. Eventually, all NIH buildings will have designated smoke-free areas, including all building entrances and exits, air intake ducts, loading docks, covered parking garages and courtyards.

The updated policy, which can be found on the Web at, is a result of Executive Order 13058 mandating that all federal employees and their visitors be protected from the health risks of environmental tobacco smoke. A group of smoking and non-smoking NIH employees worked to establish the NIH policy, which applies to all federal workers and members of the public who are working in or visiting facilities owned, leased or controlled by NIH.

In addition, unique to the Clinical Center, is a policy developed in accordance with the standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations that takes into account not only employees of the CC, but also its patients and visitors. At the hospital, the health risks of smoking are coupled with another known risk: deaths due to fire. Data from the National Fire Protection Association show that most — 75 percent — of fire fatalities in health care institutions occur among patients using smoking materials, compared to patient fatalities resulting from all known causes of fire. Therefore, at the CC, smoking has been banned in all patient-care units and throughout the building, including all stairwells and parking garages. Smoking is also prohibited within 100 feet of all entrances and CC smoke-free zones.

NIH strongly encourages and supports employees interested in smoking cessation. More information is available by contacting the NIH Employee Assistance Program at 496-3164.

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