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Bay County Hospitals Announce Tobacco-Free Campus Policy Effective Nov. 19, 2009

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Panama City, Forida – The CEOs of Bay County’s three hospitals announced today that their campuses will become tobacco-free and smoke-free effective November 19, 2009 – the same day as the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout®. With the announcement, Bay Medical Center, Gulf Coast Medical Center and HealthSouth will become the latest of more than 50 other Florida hospitals that are already tobacco-free.

“As healthcare leaders, we have an obligation to promote health and wellness in our community and to provide a healthy, tobacco-free, smoke-free environment for our patients, guests and staff,” said Steve Johnson, CEO, Bay Medical Center. “By making this announcement together, we are letting our employees and community know we are committed to promoting healthy work environments.”

The policy will apply to all patients, visitors, medical staff, contractors and employees. Starting November 19, 2009, no tobacco use of any kind will be permitted inside each hospital’s buildings, parking lots, or anywhere else on the properties.

“We recognize this is a big, but positive change,” explained HealthSouth CEO Tony Bennett. “During our transition to tobacco-free, smoke-free campuses, each of us will offer smoking cessation programs; make nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco education readily available; and educate staff on policies, expectations and their role in supporting the tobacco-free, smoke-free campus.”

Task forces at each hospital – made up of smokers and non-smokers – will guide each medical center through their respective transitions to make the change as easy as possible.

Gulf Coast Medical Center CEO Brian Baumgardner said, “The policies that each Bay County hospital will put into place bring us in step with the nearly 500 other hospitals and nursing homes around the country that have already made their campuses tobacco-free and smoke-free. We are encouraged by the responses we’re hearing from our employees, both smokers and non-smokers, about our plans. We are following many other healthcare providers that have successfully made the transition.”

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States. Cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. It accounts for nearly 1 in 5 deaths each year, of which more than 135,000 are due to smoking related cardiovascular diseases. Cigarette smokers are two-to-three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.

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