In the interest of the health of our communities, several area institutions banded together last Independence Day to adopt smoke-free policies for their campuses. You might be wondering how this has worked out over the past year at the participating institutions: namely, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and all area OSF HealthCare facilities, Methodist Medical Center, Proctor Hospital, Pekin Hospital, Graham Hospital in Canton and Advanced Medical Transport.
Change is never without its challenges, but we made every effort to make the transition to smoke-free campuses as smooth as possible. Employees at all participating institutions were notified of the impending change more than a year in advance so they could be prepared. At OSF Saint Francis, we offer free quit-smoking programs, not only for our employees, but for their spouses and dependents as well. Hundreds of employees have taken advantage of this opportunity.
Of course, this policy affects patients and visitors, in addition to staff. Mounting evidence of the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke makes it impossible for us to carry out our mission—to serve with the greatest care and love—to its fullest in the absence of a total ban on smoking on our campus.
According to the Surgeon General, smoking adversely affects nearly every organ in the body and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in 400,000 deaths each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke claims the lives of some 65,000 people in this country each year. Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems, such as lung cancer and coronary heart disease, among non-smoking adults. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of serious respiratory conditions.
As healthcare providers, we have to take a firm stand against smoking and lead the way for other institutions to follow. And they are indeed following. Smoke-free policies are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. When the Smoke-Free Illinois Act went into effect on January 1st, prohibiting smoking in virtually all public places, Illinois joined 22 other states with similar laws.
Lives will definitely be saved by initiatives to ban smoking. We feel that we have gotten a good start at that this past year and look forward to making increased strides in the future. IBI