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Because we care

By NARLITO V. CRUZ, M.D.

Special to The Post-Searchlight

Memorial Hospital and Manor continues its dedication to promote healthy lifestyles throughout our community.

As a result of this commitment, the hospital and all of its facilities will become completely tobacco-free on April 4.

The health impact of tobacco use has a destructive effect on individuals and communities. Tobacco use remains the No. 1 cause of preventable diseases, such as cancer, lung and heart diseases.

More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.

According to a recent Surgeon General report, cigarette smoking accounts for an estimated 438,000 deaths each year in the United States. On average, smokers die 14 years earlier than non-smokers.

Second-hand smoke also poses risks to people who are exposed. Breathing second-hand smoke can interfere with normal functioning of the heart, blood and vascular system, increasing the risk of heart attack. It is harmful to compromised individuals who are suffering from asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke increase their heart disease risk by 25 to 50 percent, and their lung cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent.

Smoking interferes with wound healing, increases infection rates in surgeries, and is the most important cause of poor birth outcomes. It causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth. Other harmful effects in children include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, middle ear problems and frequent asthma attacks.

The economic impact of smoking is also staggering.

During 2000-2004, cigarette smoking was estimated to be accountable for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States, $96 billion of which in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity.

Health care costs for smokers are as much as 40 percent higher than those for nonsmokers.

Employees who take four 10-minute breaks per day work one month less per year than workers who do not take smoking breaks. Smokers are absent from work from illnesses 26 percent more than nonsmokers.

Clearly, establishing a tobacco-free hospital campus has multiple benefits.

As a health care facility, it is Memorial Hospital and Manor’s obligation to our patients, employees and to the public to communicate a clear, consistent message on the risks of tobacco use and the benefits of smoking cessation.

As an health care organization, we are committed to the health, well-being and safety of our patients, visitors and employees.

Let us work together to realize this pledge to make Memorial Hospital and Manor a tobacco-free hospital campus.

Narlito Cruz, M.D., of Bainbridge Allergy and Asthma Center, is Board Certified in allergy and immunology. His office is located at 509 Wheat Avenue, Bainbridge, Ga., and the phone number is (229) 246-6334.