OGDEN -- With the goal of helping people kick the deadly habit of tobacco use, four local hospitals will snuff all smoking on their campuses starting Jan. 1.
McKay-Dee Hospital, Ogden Regional Medical Center, Davis Hospital and Medical Center, and Brigham City Community Hospital will no longer allow smoking around any of their facilities.
"As health care professionals, we realize that tobacco use is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, several cancers, respiratory and other diseases," said Mark Adams, CEO of Ogden Regional Medical Center.
"Becoming a tobacco-free campus is strongly aligned with our mission to promote wellness and healing in our community and may actually help those who smoke quit."
Adams, McKay-Dee Hospital CEO Tim Pehrson, Davis Hospital and Medical Center CEO Mike Jensen and representatives from both the Davis County and Weber-Morgan health departments announced the initiative at a Thursday morning news conference held in conjunction with the annual Great American Smokeout.
"All studies and data suggest that tobacco products lead to serious health hazards," Pehrson said. "We are committed to healing and providing a healing environment for our patients, employees and guests."
Jensen said it's important for hospitals to set an example and take the lead in promoting healthy behaviors in the community.
"We recognize tobacco-related illnesses impact all aspects of health. Everything we can do to diminish its toll on our community is worthwhile and supports our mission as health care providers," he said.
The initiative, which goes into effect Jan. 1, won't be enforced with penalties and fines, said Dr. Richard Arbogast, medical director at McKay-Dee Hospital.
Instead, employees will remind patients and visitors about the smoke-free environment and assist them in getting help to stop smoking, if they so choose.
Signs will be posted outside each hospital, and help will be provided for those who wish to stop smoking.
Patients who smoke will no longer be able to light up during their stay. Instead, they will be offered nicotine patches and other forms of help during their hospital stay.
"It's a tough habit to break," Arbogast said. "I've had patients tell me it's harder to stop smoking than to quit alcohol and some types of drugs, but we will be there for them.
"They need to know there's help available for them and it's in their best interest."
Gary House, director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, applauded the hospitals' bold steps in promoting tobacco-free environments.
"We have made tremendous strides in reducing the use of tobacco products and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke," he said.
"For example, in Utah, all indoor public places and many outdoor public places and work areas are now smoke-free, which protects nonsmokers and supports smokers who want to quit."
An estimated 200,000 people in Utah currently smoke. Every year, more than 1,200 of those smokers will die from tobacco-related causes, House said.
"Utah spends $663 million every year on medical expenses and lost productivity attributable to tobacco use," he said.
"Approximately 16,000 Utah children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes each and every day. This exposure is linked to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, and severe asthma and ear problems."
Davis County Health Department Director Lewis Garrett is happy to see the hospitals join the expanding efforts within both local health departments to keep more locations free of harmful tobacco smoke.
"This is good news for patients, visitors and employees of these facilities."
Throughout the week, hospitals and heath departments will be distributing free "Quit Kits" containing information on creating an individual quit plan.
People who sign up for the Utah Tobacco Quitline 1-800-QUITNOW between today and Nov. 25 will receive a $5 Subway gift card along with a quit kit as part of a statewide Quit Cold Turkey campaign.