Tobacco ban by local hospitals sends right message

Walla Walla General and Providence St. Mary are taking a stand that will benefit the community.

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Smoking is a health hazard, and not just for those who are smokers. The drifting smoke from smokers -- the second-hand smoke -- also puts those who inhale it at risk.

So it just makes sense that Walla Walla's two hospitals will ban smoking and all tobacco products on their campuses starting Jan. 1.

In a joint news release, the leaders of Walla Walla General Hospital and Providence St. Mary Medical Center said they believe that as health-care providers they have a responsibility to encourage and promote healthy lifestyles. In addition, they said the tobacco-free policy is important to protecting the health of staff and visitors who do not smoke.

The action taken in Walla Walla is not unique. A majority of hospitals across the nation have adopted smoke-free or tobacco-free campuses.

A national agency that accredits hospitals estimates that nearly every hospital in the nation will have full or partial bans in the near future. A survey in late 2009 found that nearly 55 percent of hospitals had already gone smoke- free or were preparing to. Another 11 percent had banned smoking except for patients under specific conditions.

The tobacco-free policies at Providence St. Mary and Walla Walla General applies to patients, visitors, staff, volunteers, vendors and physicians -- everyone. Tobacco use will not be allowed anywhere, including parking lots, clinics and outbuildings.

Going cold turkey, so to speak, is the way it has to be. Allowing smoking in a designated area, for example, still puts the health of smokers and others at risk and it sends the message that smoking isn't really that bad. It is.

If you smoke it will take a toll on your health.

It's not easy to quit smoking, and hospital officials understand that. They will make help available with smoking cessation programs for employees who wish to stop. Nicotine replacement products will be available for hospitalized patients.

"By taking this bold step, Providence St. Mary Medical Center and Walla Walla General Hospital will improve the quality and length of life of their patients and their staff," said Harvey Crowder, public health administrator for the local Health Department.

We agree.

Walla Walla General and Providence St. Mary are leading by example -- an example that should benefit the community.



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