Archive April 2019 XX, No. 4

Fired Up Over Mandatory Smoke Evacuation Laws

Will more states require the use of surgical plume evacuation systems?

Donna Policastro

Donna Policastro, RNP


Julie Greenhalgh

Julie Greenhalgh, RN, BSN, CNOR


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
CLEAN AIR Raising awareness of the dangers of surgical smoke — and the ease with which it can be evacuated — is critical to lobbying for mandatory smoke evacuation legislation.

If you've worked in an OR, you know the horror stories about surgical smoke. It could be the surgeon who never touched a cigarette suddenly developing lung cancer, the nurse who can't seem to stop coughing or the OR tech diagnosed with asthma in adulthood.

We've known about the dangers of surgical smoke for decades. Last year, in our home state of Rhode Island, we decided to do something about it. In June, the nation's smallest state made a bit of history when we passed the first law making smoke evacuation mandatory. Starting this month, all the hospitals and surgery centers in our state need to have policies on the books to protect their workers from the chemicals, carcinogens, viruses and bacteria that come with surgical smoke. Surgical staff can file reports with the state if their facilities aren't adopting or following these smoke evacuation polices.

While we're proud to be the first smoke-free state, we're hoping our story is only the beginning of a movement. It's our dream to see this initiative spread across the country. Here are 5 lessons we learned along the way that could help your state go smoke-free in the OR as well.

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