When smokers are in the hospital, they typically have to give up cigarettes for as long as they're there.
Most hospitals make little effort to screen patients for tobacco use or to help them kick the habit permanently. That's a missed opportunity.
Starting this month, though, hospitals can choose to adopt tobacco-cessation measures as part of their performance criteria to meet certification requirements by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit that accredits health care organizations.
The stop-smoking measures aren't required, but are one of several activities that hospitals can use to become certified. Hospitals that choose to go this route will be required to screen all inpatients who are 18 or older, provide cessation treatment for smokers while they're hospitalized and follow-up with them within 30 days of discharge.
Tobacco accounts for nearly half a million deaths each year, and remains the top preventable cause of death.
By screening and treating patients for smoking, hospitals can play an important role in addressing the tobacco problem in this country, says David Zauche, a senior program officer with the Partnership for Prevention, an advocacy group that provided funding for the Joint Commission to test smoking cessation measures. "This doesn't happen, and it should be routine."