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DHS news release

May 28, 2008

General contact: Patrick O'Neill, 971-673-2298
Program contact: Cathryn Cushing, 971-673-1013


DHS launches tobacco-free campus policy

The Oregon Department of Human Services is going tobacco-free -- outside buildings it owns or leases as well as inside.

Beginning May 30 use of all tobacco products will be prohibited on property that is wholly owned or leased by DHS. The new policy covers a third of DHS locations and will affect almost 4,000 employees as well as visitors to the sites.

The ceremonial kickoff and press conference announcing the new policy takes place Friday, May 30, at 9:30 a.m. in the lobby of the Barbara Roberts Human Services Building, 500 Summer St. NE, Salem.

Dr. Bruce Goldberg, DHS director, said the tobacco ban mirrors the department's overall mission.

"Every day at DHS we work to make it possible for Oregonians to be healthy, independent and safe," he said. "Providing a tobacco-free environment is one of the most significant actions we can take to protect the health of our employees, customers and visitors. That's why we've developed a policy creating tobacco-free campuses."

The new policy, which covers all DHS employees, clients, volunteers, vendors, contractors and visitors, states that tobacco-users no longer will be permitted to smoke or chew outside of the affected DHS buildings.

It bans tobacco use not only inside the buildings but also on outside areas including parking lots and private vehicles parked on DHS property.

The first phase of the tobacco-free policy will cover 57 DHS locations throughout the state, with more to be added as new lease agreements are negotiated.

The new policy is aimed at protecting the health of DHS employees and the public. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins, more than 50 of which can cause cancer. Secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks in adults and can cause asthma in children.

The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In Oregon, tobacco use costs more than $2 billion per year in direct medical expenses and lost productivity due to premature death.

"We need to do everything we can to prevent the long-term harm caused to people by tobacco use," said Goldberg. "Not only do tobacco users suffer from a range of debilitating chronic illnesses, but the financial costs to them and to society can be extremely high. I'm very pleased that DHS is taking a leadership role in the fight against tobacco products."

To help DHS employees cope with the new rule, the agency launched Project Quit Jan. 8. The goal of Project Quit is to ensure that all employees who want to quit smoking or using tobacco are aware of the cessation benefits offered by DHS. Project Quit has given employees information about resources, materials and help to quit using tobacco.

Many Oregon institutions including hospitals, college campuses and city and county campuses have successfully implemented tobacco-free campus policies.