In less than 90 days, Westchester and Rockland County hospitals will all be required to model their practices after Phelps Hospital and Westchester Medical Center’s current policies toward smoking.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern)’s bill banning smoking on the grounds of New York hospitals and residential health care facilities was recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We know that secondhand smoke is a killer,” said Jaffee, in a press release. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that there is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful. This legislation will ensure that hospitals and nursing homes are 100 percent dedicated to protecting the public’s health.”
Smoking is prohibited within 15 feet of a building or the grounds’ entrance or exit. Facilities may grant patients and guests the ability to smoke on the grounds in designated areas.
"No one should be forced to walk through a toxic cloud of tobacco smoke in order to receive health care at their hospital or while trying to recuperate or stay well at a residential health care facility," said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, in the press release.
Westchester's Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow and Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla already ban smoking on their grounds.
Second hand smoke is responsible for 2,500 deaths in New York each year and can linger in the area hours after a cigarette has gone out; can trigger asthma episodes and increase the risk of heart attack, the press release says.
"Healthcare facilities need to be leaders in the community on health-related issues,” said Michael Burgess, State Advocacy Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, in the press release. “To allow smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke on their property or in front of their facilities suggests tacit approval of smoking among employees, patients, and visitors, and is not consistent with a hospital’s mission to promote health. This law will now allow hospitals and physicians to truly promote a wellness environment and help patients stop smoking.”
More than 100 hospitals in New York voluntarily ban smoking on their grounds, while New York City adopted similar legislation in 2009. New York’s legislation will make sure every hospital in the state is on the same page when it comes its smoking policy.