Vitale Bill Would Allow State Psychiatric Hospitals To Ban On-Campus Smoking

Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, speaks to reporters after a news conference on the Statehouse steps on his efforts to limit charitable immunity in cases when the charity acts negligently in protecting children from sexual abuse.

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would allow State psychiatric hospitals to ban on-campus smoking, as long as a smoking cessation program is offered for clients, patients and employees, was unanimously approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Statistics have shown that the impact of cigarettes and nicotine at psychiatric facilities is higher for a number of reasons, including deeper inhalation, and the negative effect nicotine can have on psychotropic drugs,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, who chairs the panel. “This legislation would send a clear message that we are dedicated to protecting the health of clients, patients and employees at these facilities.”

Senator Vitale’s bill, S-625, would call upon the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Personnel to develop the smoking cessation program. Facilities would be required to initiate a smoking cessation program one year before implementing the smoking ban, and to continue offering the program once the ban is in effect.

“Last year, Southern Ocean County Health Systems (SOCHS) banned smoking at all of their five campuses. They have set a precedent here in New Jersey by taking a stand against smoking, and the State should follow suit,” Senator Vitale said.

Published reports note that in New York, smoking bans have led to nearly 4,000 fewer hospital admissions for heart attack patients than in 2004. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is one of the main causes of heart disease, said Senator Vitale.

“There are absolutely no health benefits to smoking, and this legislation would call upon facilities that are, by nature, designed to protect the health of people to take a stand against an activity that has been proven to cause cancer. This life-saving legislation would help those patients do something that they might not be able to do for themselves – stop smoking,” Senator Vitale said.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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