This Independence Day there will be more to celebrate in the Greater Peoria Area than just our nation’s birthday. Proctor Hospital, Methodist Medical Center and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, along with Pekin Hospital and Graham Hospital in Canton, have agreed to go smoke-free throughout their campuses. Also joining this initiative are Advanced Medical Transport and all of the OSF HealthCare facilities in the area.

For many years we have known the dangers of smoking and, more recently, the equally dangerous effects of secondhand smoke. Quite frankly, that’s why only about 22 percent of adults 18 and older in the U.S. smoke compared to 40 percent 30 or 40 years ago—as reported in the American Cancer Society’s 2006 Facts and Figures. In central Illinois, healthcare proponents believe it is our responsibility to lead by example. It is very appropriate that all of our area hospitals have not only agreed to go smoke-free on the same date, but are also collaborating closely to share messages with their employees and patients in the same time frames.

The Peoria area Smoke-Free Task Force has been meeting periodically for the past year to ensure the transition to entirely smokefree campuses goes very smoothly. Each organization informed its employees about going smoke-free early in 2006, ensuring that those who smoke would have adequate time to consider quitting and to successfully quit. Various quit-smoking programs are being offered to hospital employees. At OSF Saint Francis, employees, as well as their spouses and dependents 18 or older living at home, can use our Quit for Life program at no charge. All area hospitals are committed to assisting their employees who smoke to have access to a quality, smoking cessation program.

According to the American Cancer Society, smokers often say, “don’t tell me why to quit, tell me how.” There is no single right way to quit, but these four factors are crucial:

• Making the decision to quit
• Setting a quit date and choose a quit plan
• Dealing with withdrawal
• Staying smoke-free (maintenance)

Once our employees decide to quit, we can support their decision. But it’s not just employees who will be affected by our smoke-free stance on July 4. Our patients and their family members, loved ones and other visitors will also be expected not to smoke on any of our campuses. We are working now to communicate with the public so visitors are aware of the new non-smoking policy even before coming to a Peoria area hospital.

Our local media has been a helpful partner in communicating our plans and timeline, informing viewers, readers and listeners about the reasons why it’s so important that we go smoke-free. We do not want to add to the stress of patients and their families when they need to utilize our healthcare services. But by being as pro-active as we have been, we are hopeful the transition to completely smoke-free campuses will go smoothly.

You can help us by reinforcing our message to your employees who may need to visit a local hospital as a patient or as a visitor after July 4. IBI