OGDEN -- Clients and staff members at more than 150 publicly funded substance abuse and mental health facilities across Utah are going tobacco free.
Beginning Sunday, staff and clients will no longer be allowed to smoke on campus. The hope is to encourage people to live healthier, smoke-free lifestyles. In addition to becoming smoke and tobacco free, the facilities will offer tobacco cessation treatments as a part of the Recovery Plus Wellness Initiative.
"Studies show that substance abuse patients who also smoke can increase their recovery by up to 25 percent when they receive treatment for both addictions simultaneously," Utah Department of Health Deputy Director Dr. Robert Rolfs said in a news conference Wednesday.
Jed Burton, director of clinical services at Weber Human Services in Ogden, said the initiative began three years ago with several goals in mind.
"The first year, we conducted surveys of our staff members and clients on the pros and cons of having a smoke-free campus," Burton said. "The second year was dedicated to education about smoking and the benefits of being smoke free. This year we are implementing the smoke-free campus."
Burton said people with mental illnesses die, on average, 25 years sooner than the rest of the general population. He said addictive habits such as smoking may be a factor, in addition to a mental illness.
"If we can get people to stop smoking and educate them on the benefits, we may see them living longer and more fulfilling lives," Burton said. "In addition, they will save a lot of money. Smoking is a very expensive habit, but it's extremely hard to quit, so we have several ways to help them."
Burton said the campus will offer smoking cessation classes and referrals to the Quit Line. There will also be education about replacement therapies, such as nicotine patches.
"We know that tobacco use for residents of Utah suffering from mental illness or substance abuse is much higher than for the general population in Utah," said Palmer DePaulis, executive director at Utah Department of Human Services. "With these facilities going 100 percent tobacco-free and treating tobacco use, the substance abuse and mental health providers can save lives."
Recovery Plus was created in response to an urgent need for guidelines for creating a tobacco-free campus policy, according to UDOH, which estimates nearly 17,000 tobacco users will benefit from the cessation programs.
For more information, visit www.RecoveryPlus.Utah.Gov.
For free help quitting tobacco, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line at 1.800.QUIT.NOW or visit www.UtahQuitNet.com.
"We are going to have a kick-off party on July 2 here on campus for our staff and clients, and at that time we will be asking them to refrain from smoking here," Burton said. "We don't intend on using a heavy-handed approach, but our hope is to help save lives and get the word out there about the dangers of smoking."