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Cigarette Sales : Bay Hospitals Join Smokeout

May 30, 1985|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood does it.

San Pedro Peninsula Hospital has never done it.

South Bay Hospital in Redondo Beach is about to stop doing it.

What these hospitals are doing, not doing or ceasing to do is sell cigarettes in their gift shops.

"We made a decision that because the hospital is a health care institution, we should promote health and take cigarettes out of our gift shop," said Grace LaPoint, president of the South Bay Hospital Auxiliary, as she announced that after many years the shop will cease cigarette sales when its current stock runs out.

Founded 60 years ago, San Pedro Peninsula banned cigarette sales from the start because of health factors, officials said.

Centinela, however, does not regard gift shop sales of cigarettes as either a health or image problem and has no plans to stop, said spokesman Willis Webb. "Cigarettes are stocked as a convenience for people asking for them," he said. Webb said the shop did suspend sales a few years ago, "but visitors made such a fuss we began to accommodate them again."

A Times telephone survey of 12 major South Bay hospitals disclosed that only four--Centinela, Robert F. Kennedy in Hawthorne, Kaiser Permanente in Harbor City and South Bay--have cigarettes available in gift shops or in snack bars accessible to the public and patients.

Hospitals that do not sell cigarettes in gift shops or other locations are Daniel Freeman Memorial in Inglewood, Little Company of Mary in Torrance, San Pedro Peninsula, Memorial of Hawthorne, Memorial of Gardena and Torrance Memorial, Bay Harbor in Harbor City and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.

The local hospitals reflect a statewide trend away from the sale of tobacco in hospitals, which began taking hold nearly a decade ago and grew along with warnings about the health hazards of smoking.

Diane Herby, volunteer services director for the California Hospital Assn., said 75% of California's hospitals do not sell cigarettes, primarily for health reasons.

"Cigarettes were sold until five years ago," said M. Carmelle Welte, spokeswoman for Torrance Memorial Hospital Medical Center. "It was stopped because the medical staff and the hospital administration felt it was inappropriate to sell tobacco products in a health care facility."

LaPoint said the auxiliary's decision to stop cigarette sales at South Bay Hospital became very personal after an auxiliary member who smoked came down with lung cancer. "That stirred many of the ladies," she said.

Where cigarette sales continue, Herby said, the rationale is convenience for patients and visitors who are smokers, along with sales revenues, which the volunteer groups that run the gift shops put into hospital programs.

Those are the reasons cited by Ruth Cohen, cigarette and candy buyer for the gift shop at Hawthorne's Robert F. Kennedy hospital, where cigarettes are stocked because patients and staff buy them. If people could not buy them there, she said, they would go somewhere else, and the hospital guild would lose money needed to support the hospital.

LaPoint, however, disagrees that gift shop cigarette sales contribute much money to hospital programs. "They're a nonprofit item, handled mainly for service," she said. She said there have been "no complaints" from anyone about the decision to discontinue selling cigarettes.

Centinela's gift shop makes less than $1,000 a year profit from cigarette sales, officials said.Sales figures were not available from the other hospitals that sell cigarettes.

If South Bay hospitals are divided over selling cigarettes, they all are in agreement about smoking--discouraging patient smoking in rooms and confining smoking by others to designated areas in the waiting rooms, cafeterias and employee lounges. They regard smoking as both a health and fire hazard.

South Bay hospitals located in Los Angeles, such as Bay Harbor and Kaiser Permanente, went along with restrictions of the city's new smoking control ordinance. Bay Harbor, which never has sold cigarettes in its gift shop, also removed a cigarette vending machine near the cafeteria. "Our decision was related to health," said spokesperson Monica Hall. "We're health providers and there is overwhelming evidence that cigarettes are dangerous to health."

At Daniel Freeman and Torrance Memorial, patients must have their physicians' permission to smoke.

Kaiser Permanente permits patients to smoke "only if they find it difficult not to smoke and they request special permission," said Cary Fuller, hospital administrator.

Fuller said the hospital considered asking an outside vendor to stop selling cigarettes at the snack bar but felt it would be an imposition on the rights of smokers. They said the hospital's stringent smoking limitations "already are asking employees to make profound changes in their smoking habits."

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