SMH Goes Tobacco Free to Promote Healthy Habits

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St. Mary’s Hospital went tobacco free on Thursday, Nov. 20 in an effort to promote healthy habits in our community. This means the use of tobacco products is no longer allowed on hospital property. The date was chosen to coincide with the Great American Smokeout®, which encourages smokers to quit for one day in hopes that it will start them on the road to stop smoking.

A hospital task force started meeting in April to plan for the hospital campus’ tobacco-free transition. The task force looked at ways to ease the changeover for employees and guests. Smoking cessation classes have been offered to employees and the community with the assistance of the St. Mary’s County Health Department.

The hospital was also awarded a grant from the Health Department to bring programs to the community to encourage smokers to quit. This includes the Adopt a Smoker program, which pairs smokers who wish to quit with a non-smoker who agrees to be their support person and cheerleader. 

The event includes displays and giveaways at St. Mary’s Hospital, including a drawing for two turkey dinner gift certificates for employees and community members who have joined the Adopt a Smoker program or the Great American Smokeout® and are going “cold turkey.”  Throughout the month, free “Quit Kits” are available at Health Connections and on the Mobile Outreach Center. 

On Dec. 5, all those who participated in the earlier programs and are still committed to quitting are invited to a breakfast to celebrate their accomplishments.  Another event will be held in February for those who have remained tobacco free for three months. Prizes will be awarded.

“The Smoke-Free initiative benefits the Southern Maryland community in its efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle,” said John Greely, safety officer for St. Mary’s Hospital and member of the Smoke-Free Campus Task Force. This initiative is another example of St. Mary’s Hospital’s role as a leading health care institution and its ongoing commitment to a healthy community.  The hospital will continue to work with the Health Department to offer smoking cessation and smokeless tobacco cessation classes in 2009.

Tobacco use can cause lung and other cancers, heart disease and lung disease. Quitting tobacco use will improve health by lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving circulation, and reducing the risk for cancer, stroke and death.  It will also save money — smoking a pack of cigarettes a day costs on average $1,400 a year.

A six-week cessation class for smokers begins Jan. 6, 2009 from 6 to 7 p.m., and a six-week cessation class for smokeless tobacco users begins Jan. 7, 2009 from 6 to 7 p.m. Both classes will be held at the St. Mary’s County Health Department in Leonardtown.  Registration for the classes is at the Health Department on Dec. 15 from 6 to 7 p.m.

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