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The campus of RiverStone Health becomes tobacco-free on Oct. 1. The new policy makes RiverStone the 48th medical or healthcare organization in Montana to implement a tobacco-free policy.

The new policy applies to employees, patients and all others who enter the grounds, and covers all tobacco and smokeless tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the no. 1 cause of preventable disease and death in America. The harmful chemicals in secondhand smoke can cause cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious health problems. Each year, an estimated 175 Montanans who never smoked die from secondhand smoke.

In October of 2009, the statewide Clean Indoor Air Act required public buildings and workplaces to be smoke-free. Since the state regulation never covered the outdoor areas surrounding buildings, doorways around many buildings became “the smoking section” by default.

The movement toward tobacco-free campuses has grown steadily. By the end of 2010, more than 40 hospitals and health facilities in Montana had tobacco-free campuses. College campuses across the state have adopted similar polices.

While the RiverStone Health Board of Health was responsible for adopting the policy, the impetus for the tobacco-free plan came from a leadership development team at RiverStone Health. Each year, employees apply to participate in a year-long leadership training program. Part of the program involves tackling a project that makes a difference at work and in the community. In 2012, the group chose to develop the tobacco-free policy, said Linda Turner, a spokesperson for the group who works in environmental health services at RiverStone Health.

“Tobacco-free campuses send a clear message that tobacco use is not safe,” Turner said.

“It’s RiverStone Health’s responsibility to take a leadership role on this important public health issue,” said Michael Dennis, the chairman of the RiverStone Health Board of Health. “Tobacco-free policies promote a healthy lifestyle, measurably improving the health of a community.”

RiverStone Health’s tobacco-free policy eliminates the use of any tobacco product on the organization’s grounds by staff, patients, clients, visitors and any others entering the grounds.

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