It’s no secret that Oklahoma consistently ranks among the worst states for tobacco usage. That’s why Mercy Hospital El Reno, Mercy Hospital Kingfisher, Mercy Hospital Logan County and Mercy Hospital Watonga recently launched a program called “Tobacco Free Mercy” to help the nearly seven out of 10 U.S. tobacco users who want to quit in 2016. It’s a different approach to a nationwide problem, starting with conversations between smokers or tobacco users admitted into the hospital and respiratory therapists or nurses.
“The main goal of the respiratory therapist or nurse is to help the patient know why they are in the hospital in the first place,” said Trina Armstrong, tobacco treatment system coordinator for Mercy. “A lot of the times these patients are hospitalized for things like pneumonia, asthma, or even diabetes and they don’t realize the role smoking plays in their illness.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many cancers and diseases and reducing the overall health of smokers in general. Through Tobacco Free Mercy, smokers and tobacco users are referred to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline and provided with two weeks of nicotine replacement therapy and coaching. In return, their progress is monitored by the patient’s Mercy primary care physician and nurses.
“Patients value the advice of their healthcare team and tobacco users become seven times more successful on their next quit attempt with the help and tools we have created through Tobacco Free Mercy,” said Jim Gebhart, president of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, which first started the program in 2015. “Ever since this program launched, we’ve connected close to 1,300 patients to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. Tobacco Free Mercy has made a significant difference in the lives of patients at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City and we are confident that it will have the same impact in our other Mercy communities.”
The program also includes special services for women who are pregnant. If you’re interested in learning more, talk to your Mercy physician or nurse about Tobacco Free Mercy, or visit
Mercy is the seventh largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves millions annually. Mercy includes 45 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.