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Businesses are snuffing out tobacco

Knute Nelson in Alexandria is among a growing list of businesses and organizations that are tobacco-free zones.

There is a growing list of healthcare facilities and local worksites that are becoming 100 percent tobacco-free grounds.

Douglas, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Grant counties have joined together to form West Central Wellness, a regional effort to promote community policies that improve the health of residents and reduce health care costs.

The effort is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

West Central Wellness - together with local healthcare facilities and local businesses - are working to stomp out tobacco use on worksite grounds, including parking lots.

The benefits of tobacco restrictions have a positive effect, according to Amy Reineke, educator with Douglas County Public Health. It demonstrates to the public that wellness is a priority, she said.

Tobacco-free grounds contribute to providing the safest, healthiest, and most cost-effective working environment possible, Reineke noted. Tobacco-free grounds also support interest in smoking cessation, which is one of the most important things a smoker can do to improve their health.

"I quit using tobacco. Now that my worksite is tobacco-free grounds it's just a hassle to smoke at work," said Linda Namur of Knute Nelson, a healthcare facility that became tobacco-free grounds earlier this year.

Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria and Galeon in Osakis, together with Knute Nelson, committed to a healthier environment by enacting tobacco-free ground policies in January 2011.

Many worksites are interested in improving the health of their workforce by helping employees quit tobacco, according to West Central Wellness. The workplace environment can support employees in quitting by implementing tobacco-free outdoor grounds policies and by connecting employees to cessation resources.

Research shows that smokers who are employed in workplaces with tobacco free policies tend to consume fewer cigarettes per day, are more likely to be considering quitting and quit at a greater rate than smokers employed in workplaces with no or weaker policies, according to a 2002 Brownson study.

A tobacco-free workplace is not only good for the health of employees, but it's also good for the wealth of business, Reineke said. Every tobacco user that quits saves money in costs associated with absenteeism, smoke breaks, productivity, life insurance, healthcare and more, she said.

By addressing this issue in the workplace, it demonstrates to employees and their families that the organization is committed to their health and wellbeing, noted West Central Wellness leaders. It also sends a message to the community that you are playing an active part in eliminating the harm caused by tobacco.

If you are starting to think about a tobacco-free outdoor grounds policy at your workplace, contact West Central Wellness for free resources.

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