TRENTON – Senator Joseph Vitale, the sponsor of legislation allowing State psychiatric hospitals to ban smoking, today applauded the membership of the NJ Tobacco-Free Hospital Campus Collaborative for its collective commitment to banning smoking anywhere on the campuses of their health facilities. The group held a news conference this morning in the State House Annex, to update the public on its progress.
“Nicotine is one of the most addictive and most harmful toxins,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, who chairs the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “By their very nature, medical facilities are designed to protect the health of patients and the surrounding communities, and it is an unhealthy conflict to allow patients, visitors and employees to engage in such an unhealthy activity on hospital grounds. Our medical facilities and personnel must set a positive example.”
Senator Vitale’s legislation, S-625, became law on April 7, 2008. The law calls upon the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Personnel to develop smoking cessation programs aimed at helping residents and employees of State psychiatric facilities stop smoking. Facilities are required to initiate a smoking cessation program one year before implementing the smoking ban, and to continue to offer the program once the ban is in effect.
Senator Vitale said that although his bill applies to State psychiatric hospitals, he believes that all health care facilities should do their part to stamp out smoking.
Representatives of the Collaborative have said that a number of facilities will go smoke-free beginning November 20. The date also coincides with the 2008 Great American Smokeout, an annual event started by the American Cancer Society in 1977 to encourage smokers to quit for a day in hopes that they’ll be able to quit for good, said Senator Vitale.