OMC campus going smoke-free Nov. 20

In a little more than a week, the visitors, patients and staff at Olympic Medical Center won't be able to just step outside for a cigarette. They will have to walk off the hospital property.

State law already prohibits smoking within 25 feet of buildings as a result of Initiative 901 approved by the state's voters in November 2005.

But beginning Nov. 20, smoking will be prohibited anywhere on the Olympic Medical Center campuses in Port Angeles and Sequim plus all property either owned or leased by the hospital district.

The timing is designed to coincide with the annual Great American Smokeout, which is held on the third Thursday of November. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society since 1977, the national event encourages people to stop smoking for 24 hours.

In addition to the Port Angeles campus at 939 Caroline St. the smoking ban will apply to Sequim Medical Plaza at 777 N. Fifth Ave., Olympic Medical Park at 840 N. Fifth Ave. and all other clinics and buildings such as

X-ray, home health, laboratory and cancer care.

"We're going smoke-free. It's what we need to be doing as a health care organization," Richard Newman, chief human resources officer, told the OMC board of directors at its Nov. 5 meeting.

The proposal received unanimous support from both the board of directors and medical staff when it was presented in February, he said.

The hospital's buildings have been smoke-free since the late 1980s, now that policy will spread beyond the walls, Newman said.

The new policy goes into effect Nov. 20 and advertising started the week of Nov. 10, he said. Signs will be posted around the hospital campuses informing people of the change and two banners measuring three feet by 20 feet will be hung over doorways, Newman said.

Hospital staff also will be encouraging patients to quit or at least delay smoking while staying there but it is difficult to forbid them from doing so, he said.

After the first year of the new policy, many hospitals are excited by the results but the first months are "interesting," Newman said.

"This will be a transitional phase because it will be a difficult process to say 'You can't do that.' We anticipate success with this over a period of time," he said.

Candy and possibly nicotine lozenges will be available as substitutes for not having a cigarette in hand, Newman said.

Washington state's then-attorney general Christine Gregoire was one of first to begin the 1997 lawsuit against the tobacco companies, he noted.

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between the country's four largest tobacco companies and the attorneys general of 46 states was signed in 1998.

It protects the tobacco companies from future litigation in exchange for restrictions on marketing and other business practices and payments to compensate states for the cost of treating people with smoking-related illnesses.

Washington state actually used its settlement money to fund tobacco prevention and education in contrast to some other states, Newman said.

Clallam County has an ordinance that allows smoking at the county courthouse at 223 E. Fourth St. only in a designated area of the parking lot, said Jill Dole, tobacco prevention and control specialist.

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