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Time to butt out

Region set to enforce smoke-free policy

Region set to enforce smoke-free policy

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2011

The Winnipeg Health Region is stepping up efforts to ensure its facilities and grounds are smoke-free.

Starting in July, anyone found smoking on Region grounds or within eight metres of an office or health-care facility air intake or entranceway - even if they are on public property - will be issued a notice of enforcement and asked to move away to finish their cigarette.

The new approach is part of a revised smoking policy covering Region property that was approved earlier this year. It's also in line with a city bylaw passed in May that makes it illegal to smoke at various outdoor locations, such as school grounds, playgrounds, playing fields during youth events, areas near hospitals and clinics, and Region worksites. Those violating the city bylaw may be ticketed and could face a fine.

Arlene Wilgosh, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region, says the changes are a step in the right direction. "The harmful effects of smoking are well documented," says Wilgosh. "Creating a healthier, smoke-free environment around our health facilities and offices just makes sense. It's not only the right thing to do, it's a commitment we are proud to make."

Dr. Sande Harlos, Medical Officer of Health for the Winnipeg Health Region, says the focus on being smoke-free is really about protecting the health of smokers and non-smokers alike.

While the Region has long had a smoke-free policy for its facilities and grounds, enforcement has been inconsistent, and some patients and clients, as well as visitors, have continued to smoke where they shouldn't, usually outside of facilities where smoking is prohibited. This poses a couple of problems.

First, patients who smoke don't heal as fast as those who don't. "Smoking constricts blood vessels, which can impact blood flow and the delivery of medication and oxygen to affected parts of the body. When you are in the hospital, you want to get better and home as quickly as you can. Stopping smoking even for a short time really helps," says Harlos.

Second, there is the risk posed by second-hand smoke.

"People may not realize that smoking outside poses a risk for non-smokers who may be close by," says Harlos.

For example, she says studies have shown that a person who inhales second-hand smoke experiences nearly the same immediate effects on their heart and blood vessels as the person nearby who is actually smoking.

"No one wants their second-hand smoke to trigger someone else's heart attack," she says.

The Region is taking steps to help patients admitted to hospital who smoke recover faster and adjust to a smoke-free environment. Nicotine gum and the patch are available to help patients heal smoke-free more comfortably. Patients interested in trying nicotine replacement therapies are encouraged to ask their health-care provider for information.

Members of the public who want to quit smoking can seek help by calling the Smokers' Helpline at 1-877-513- 5333 or www.smokershelpline.ca.

Wave: Summer 2011

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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