Tampa, Florida - more hospitals going totally tobacco free..

January 1, 2011 - Hospitals around the Tampa Bay region are ringing in 2011 with a healthy resolution long in the works: extinguishing on-campus smoking. Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospitals and the Morton Plant Mease health care system are among those becoming smoke-free zones with the start of the year. That means no exceptions. Staffers can't light up in parked cars. Visitors can't smoke in the gardens. And the hospitals are tobacco-free, so there's no resorting to options that don't produce smoke. At Tampa General, employees even asked if they could lean over the sidewalk to smoke over the surrounding water. The answer was no.

By Monday, January 3rd the vast majority of local hospitals won't allow any smoking, as the latest converts join institutions such as Bayfront Medical Center, All Children's Hospital, University of South Florida Health and Moffitt Cancer Center that previously took the step.

"If we're going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk," said Dr. Mark Vaaler, chief medical officer for St. Joseph's hospitals and South Florida Baptist Hospital, part of the newly tobacco-free BayCare Health System. "We are here to help promote healthy behaviors." Smoking, which causes more than 85 percent of lung cancers, can lead to cancer throughout the body. One in three cancer deaths in the United States is tobacco-related.

Hospitals have spent months mapping out their transition, from offering classes to help employees kick the habit to stocking nicotine gum in their gift stores.

By 2008, almost half of U.S. hospitals had adopted smoke-free policies, with more expected to quickly follow suit, according to a study by their accrediting organization, the Joint Commission. That's compared with just 3 percent in 1992.

In Pasco County, all hospitals have been tobacco-free since 2009 through an initiative supported by the local health department. Hospital campuses in Hernando and Citrus counties have also snuffed out smoking. At Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, completely smoke-free since 2002, patients and visitors accepted the policy once they understood it.

See reference for hospitals in Tampa area going tobacco-free in January 2011.

Reference: Tampa Bay hospitals ring in the new year by going tobacco-free by Letitia Stein, Times staff writer, St. Petersburg Times, 1/1/2011.