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Hospital campus going tobacco-free

Today is the date that the American Cancer Society celebrates the Great American Smokeout, encouraging smokers to go smoke-free for just one day.

And today’s Great American Smokeout is also the date on which Andalusia Regional Hospital has chosen to go smoke-free throughout the campus forever.

ARH CEO Mark Dooley said the decision to make the whole campus smoke-free was made as part of the hospital’s commitment to make the entire community healthier.

“Currently our building is smoke free, but we need to take the next step and not allow tobacco use anywhere on our campus,” Dooley said. “I know non-smokers are frustrated having to walk through smoke and smoke odors on their way into the building, and it would be irresponsible on our part to continue to allow that to happen.”

Dooley said as ARH discussed ways to help make the community healthier, the dangers of smoking came to the forefront.

“The illnesses, many of them chronic, related to smoking contribute to a decreased health status in our community (as well as many others),” he said. “As a healthcare leader in our community, I feel it is our responsibility to set an example and not allow something on our premises that contributes to so many health problems.”

Patients who are smokers will be notified by physicians and nurses of the new policy and offered nicotine replacement gum or patches while they are in the hospital.

“We are trying to communicate to visitors in every way possible and we plan to have plenty of signage up at the hospital to remind everyone,” Dooley said.

The hospital also gave its employees six or seven months’ notice about the changes.

A celebration of the new policy is planned in the ARH lobby from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. today.

“Employees on our hospital’s insurance have access to resources to help them stop smoking, and for others we offered access to classes and other resources to assist them in stopping,” Dooley said. “When staff are working they will be given nicotine replacement (gum or patches) free of charge if they request it. We will also allow employees to purchase gum or patches for their use outside of work at the hospital’s cost for either.”