On the steps of Orlando City Hall, November 7, 2007, three of Central Florida’s major healthcare systems came together to make an announcement that will help create a healthier community. Florida Hospital, Health Central, and Orlando Health announced a unique partnership and joint decision to become tobacco-free on July 1, 2008.

“It is remarkable to have these organizations working together to eliminate smoke and tobacco from their facilities simultaneously,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “It shows a partnership and commitment to health that goes beyond each hospital’s walls.  Together, they are really making a difference in our community.”

In honor of this unprecedented announcement, the hospitals have established a common motto of “Breathe Easy” for the initiative.  To recognize that, they donated a tree to the City of Orlando that will be planted at Wadeview Park.  They also distributed seedlings to encourage everyone to plant trees that symbolize fresh air.

“The relationship between hospitals and the community is more than just mending broken bones or tending to immediate medical needs,” said Lars Houmann, president of Florida Hospital. “Hospitals that truly care will do everything they can to enhance and promote healthy lifestyles for the people they serve.”

As part of that commitment, each facility will offer support programs such as smoking cessation and support groups for employees who are attempting to quit smoking. 

“We are going tobacco-free not only for the health of our patients but also for the health of our employees,” said Richard Irwin, Jr., president of Health Central. “However, we know smoking is a difficult addiction to manage.  That is why we are offering support to those who need it so this can be a positive experience for all involved.”

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.  The positive effects of quitting begin almost immediately and increase with time.  In fact, after only 20 minutes of not smoking, blood pressure and pulse rates decrease.  After 8 hours, the oxygen level in the blood increases, and at 24 hours, the chance of a heart attack decreases.  At the 15-year mark, the risk of death returns to nearly the same level as those who have never smoked.

“Smoking not only affects the smoker, but it also affects everyone around them,” said State Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros, MD, MPH. “By going tobacco-free together, these hospitals are not only going to have healthier employees but also a healthier environment in which to care for their patients.”

The hospitals will use the next nine months to prepare their employees, patients and visitors for the tobacco-free transition.  All three healthcare systems will officially become tobacco-free on July 1, 2008.

“Our unprecedented decision to go tobacco-free at the same time signals our shared commitment to our employees, patients, and others who visit our hospitals,” said John Hillenmeyer, president of Orlando Health. “We are a team aiming to provide the best healing environments possible.”

Florida Hospital, Health Central, and Orlando Health join more than 400 hospitals across the nation that are now tobacco-free, including Mayo Clinic, Duke University, and Cleveland Clinic.