FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- Medical Department Activity -- Alaska campuses officially became tobacco-free Dec. 1 with the signing of the tobacco-free policy by MEDDAC-AK commander, Col. Christopher Jarvis.

Campuses at Ft. Wainwright include Bassett Army Community Hospital, Preventive Medicine, Behavioral Health, Dental Activity -- Alaska (DENTAC)/Army Substance Abuse Program, Kamish Army Medical Home, Veterinary Clinic and the Medical Warehouse.

On the day of policy implementation smoke-shacks from outlying clinics were removed and these structures, which are more permanent at Bassett ACH, will be removed in the spring when ice and snow have melted. In the meantime, signs stating this is a tobacco-free campus were installed covering the entrances to the structures.

The local tobacco-free campus policy follows a 2015 Medical Command operations order mandating the implementation of tobacco-free campuses across all MEDCOM facilities within a 12 month period.
"Even with the directed timeline, MEDDAC-AK leadership deliberately delayed implementation to ensure we got the policy right," said Jarvis.

According to Jarvis, this time was spent facilitating legal and union negotiations along with capturing lessons learned from other tobacco-free medical treatment facilities as well as preparing and planning the logistical and patient care access process.

"We are now at a place where we can confidently move forward and operationalize the surgeon general's intent of supporting a healthier MEDCOM an creating momentum to transform the Army culture toward becoming tobacco-free," said Jarvis.

With the policy now in effect, civilians will follow a phased implementation. During the first six months, Dec. 1 through May 30, civilian employees will be able to use tobacco products off campus during paid breaks and unpaid lunch breaks. After May 30, this will change to only during unpaid lunch breaks.

However, military personnel assigned to MEDDAC-AK have an immediate implementation.
"The phased implementation plan affects only DoD civilians employees as MEDDAC-AK military personnel should not be using tobacco products while in uniform, or during the duty day, in accordance with Army Regulation 600-63," says Jarvis.

While MEDDAC-AK leadership is not asking anyone to give up tobacco products, they are offering free tobacco cessation services to both beneficiaries and civilian employees who do not otherwise qualify for services. Those choosing to use the services can contact preventive medicine at 361-5182.