UF, Shands HealthCare plan to go tobacco-free together

Patients, visitors and employees at the University of Florida Health Science Center campus and Shands HealthCare facilities throughout north central Florida are going Tobacco-Free Together, officials announced today (Tuesday, Aug. 4).

As of Nov. 1, the use of cigarettes or other tobacco products in any of the Health Science Center, Shands or UF Physicians buildings and parking lots, or in vehicles in these areas, will not be permitted. UF plans to implement the policy on its main campus in July 2010.

“Going tobacco-free on our health-care campuses is the right thing to do for our patients and visitors — and for each other,” said Dr. David S. Guzick, UF’s senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System. “Coinciding with Tobacco-Free Together will be the opening of the Shands Cancer Hospital at UF, which reflects our commitment to the prevention and treatment of cancer.”

The new rule mainly affects a few designated outdoor smoking and tobacco-use areas and the properties surrounding Health Science Center and Shands HealthCare facilities. Smoking and tobacco use are already prohibited indoors.

“The decision to have tobacco-free campuses systemwide supports our commitment to providing a healthy environment for our patients and to improving health in our communities,” said Tim Goldfarb, chief executive officer of Shands HealthCare. “We not only provide outstanding medical treatment and patient care, but also work hard to promote wellness and disease prevention.”

Tobacco dependence is the nation’s most preventable cause of death and disease, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Nationally, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths or an estimated 440,000 deaths per year, according to the Florida Hospital Association. That’s approximately 1,200 people each day — more than deaths caused by alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroin, homicide, suicide, car crashes, fires and AIDS combined. Currently, one out of every seven adults hospitalized at Shands at UF is treated for cancer or cancer-related illnesses.

Throughout Florida, more than 70 hospitals support the Florida Department of Health’s “Tobacco Free Florida” campaign and have tobacco-free campuses. Shands Jacksonville and the UF Health Science Center-Jacksonville went completely tobacco-free last November.

The Health Science Center and Shands HealthCare are providing information and resources to assist employees, patients and visitors who would like to break the habit. A wide selection of counseling services, self-help materials and medicines are available to help smokers and tobacco-users quit successfully. More information is available at www.tobaccofree.health.ufl.edu.