Clearing The Air - Local Hospitals Go Smoke-Free

Contact:Michael Valentino
Phone:732-751-7538
Email:mvalentino@meridianhealth.com

Clearing The Air - Local Hospitals Go Smoke-Free

Meridian Health leads statewide coalition to eliminate the effects of smoking in and around health care facilities.

In an unprecedented effort to protect and promote the health of patients, visitors, and employees, Meridian Health, together with more than 20 hospitals and health systems across New Jersey, will eliminate the use of tobacco products throughout all areas of its campuses. More than 11,300 state residents die each year from smoking, according to the American Cancer Society. Starting on November 20, to coincide with the American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke Out Day, smoking will no longer be permitted on any property owned, rented, or leased by Meridian Health, including Jersey Shore University Medical Center and K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and over 70 other locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties where Meridian provides skilled nursing, rehabilitation, ambulatory and outpatient centers and offices. "With a mission to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve, Meridian believes we have a responsibility to take a leadership role on this major health issue," says John K. Lloyd, FACHE, president, Meridian Health. "Allowing people to use tobacco products sends a contrary message on our commitment to our mission." While smoking indoors has been banned for many years, this new policy eliminates smoking throughout each hospital and health care facility property, including sidewalks, parking lots, and previously designated smoking areas. At Meridian, the initiative began with the formation of a smoke-free task force comprised of employees, nurses, and physicians, who developed the smoke-free policy which Meridian announced to its over 8,500 team members last January. Throughout 2008, Meridian has continued to provide team members with education and smoking cessation resources to those who wished to quit. "As any smoker would tell you, going 'cold turkey,' is hard, and so this transition to a completely smoke-free environment has taken a lot of time, teamwork, effort, and commitment," says Lloyd. "We appreciate the challenge this policy may pose for some of our team members and visitors, however, we deeply believe the greater benefits to our patients, visitors, and team will make it all worthwhile." Meridian Health led the formation of the statewide coalition along with other area hospitals in the fall of 2007, to coordinate and support local health care facilities willing to work collaboratively toward the goal of smoke-free health care campuses. On November 20, it is expected that all hospitals in Monmouth and Ocean counties will be smoke-free, with virtually all hospitals throughout the state going smoke-free in 2009. "Our decision to eliminate smoking throughout our facilities is not intended to force anyone to quit using tobacco products, but about our responsibility to provide our patients with the best possible healing environment," says Lloyd. "By becoming completely tobacco-free, all New Jersey's health care providers are setting an important example of wellness and disease prevention for our patients, team members, and community." For more information on Meridian's smoke-free initiative, please visit meridianhealth.com. For information on smoking cessation, please call or visit any of these resources: American Cancer Society: cancer.org or 1-800-ACS-2345 American Lung Association Freedom from SmokingR: ffsonline.org or 1-800-548-8252 New Jersey QuitNet: njquitnet.com New Jersey Quitline:1-866-NJ-STOPS