New Ulm Worksites Go Tobacco-Free
Experts agree that complete avoidance of tobacco is the single most powerful action step an individual can take to prevent heart disease. But it’s very challenging for an entire community to reduce their smoking rate without creating an environment that discourages the habit.
So it was almost a stroke of fate when, at about the same time that HONU launched, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) was signed into law as a component of Minnesota Health Care Reform. Eventually the two programs joined up in some efforts, particularly around helping New Ulm businesses go completely tobacco-free.
“SHIP is focused on policy, systems and environmental changes,” said Becky Weber, SHIP coordinator for Brown and Nicollet County. “We picked seven interventions to focus on in the next year and one of them — tobacco-free worksites — came out as a major priority for us.”
SHIP began working with HONU’s worksite lead Holly Glaubitz. The SHIP program supported Glaubitz to receive specialized training from the American Lung Association in their “Freedom from Smoking” program and she subsequently helped three New Ulm worksites to implement tobacco-free policies and conduct onsite smoking cessation classes for employees.
J&R Schugel Trucking, Shelter Products and Oak Hills Nursing Home all accepted the offer from SHIP and HONU to implement tobacco-free policies at their worksites. Schugel went tobacco- free in September of 2010. Shelter and Oak Hills implemented their policies in November 2010.
At J&R Schugel Trucking, Human Resources Manager Leah Peck said, “One of the most successful components about our going tobacco- free was that our president, Rick Schugel, had the idea that we should first hold a vote among employees to decide if we should do it. Overwhelmingly, people voted to go smoke-free.
Taking into account the time employees had to prepare before the tobacco-free date, the resources that were available to them and the fact that most of them voted in support of the tobacco-free workplace, Peck said, “by the time we went tobacco-free it was much less of an event than we thought it would be. It really was an easy transition and just part of an evolving culture at Schugel that truly values their employees’ health.”
At Shelter Products, the tobacco-free decision was also made out of concern for employees’ health, but also to help improve productivity in the workplace, said Office Manager Barb Stueber.
Through the SHIP grant and with Glaubitz’s help, quit smoking classes were offered onsite at each workplace. Classes are organized into eight sessions and participants don’t quit until the fourth class. Glaubitz explained, “The first few classes prepare them to quit. They develop a plan that teaches them how to deal with stress in place of smoking, as well as what type of medication options are available. Then they do it. The overarching theme of the class is to find what works for you — develop your own plan to be successful.”