Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    First in the nation: WA's public hospitals and health services go smoke-free.

    1/01/2008 11:46 AM

    All public hospitals and health facilities across Western Australia will be smoke-free from today.

    Health Minister Jim McGinty said the smoke-free policy would help protect more than 35,000 staff from exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as hundreds of thousands of patients, visitors and contractors each year.

    “Everyone knows that smoking kills,” Mr McGinty said.

    “Hospitals are places to get well in, not to be exposed to something as deadly as cigarette smoke.

    “Our commitment is to protect and promote the health of the WA community and banning smoking on our grounds, particularly for patients whose health is already compromised, is a very important step.

    “The WA Department of Health is the first Government health department to implement a State-wide smoke-free policy in Australia. Canada introduced a similar policy several years ago with great success.

    “It’s great to see WA continue to lead the nation on anti-smoking strategies.”

    Staff who smoked were being offered support to manage their smoking at work or if they wanted to quit, would be offered Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) at no cost. Patients who smoked would be assessed by staff and, where appropriate, offered NRT while they were inpatients.

    The Minister said special care was being used to introducing the policy to mental health services.

    “Research indicates that 43 per cent of people with a mental illness smoke, while the smoking rate in the wider community is 15 per cent,” he said.

    “The first mental health facility to go smoke-free was the Frankland Centre - the forensic mental health centre at Graylands Hospital which cares for involuntary patients.

    “For the six months leading up to the introduction of the ban in mid-2007, staff worked to develop strategies to help ease patients through the change.

    “Since the centre went smoke-free, there has been no increase in aggressive incidents relating to the smoke-free policy and there has been a marked increase in patients taking part in positive recreational and rehabilitative activities.”

    Several months prior to introducing smoking bans for employees in January 2007, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital surveyed staff and found that 41 per cent of employees who smoked at work said they would try to stop the habit once the ban was introduced.

    Medical Director of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Peter Bentley said that anecdotally it appeared the ban had encouraged many staff to give up smoking or significantly cut down.

    “This program has given them the push to give up a habit that many of them have been fighting for years,” he said.

    “Being able to work in an environment without the temptations of seeing others smoke makes a big difference.”

    Health sites which have gone smoke-free already include:
    • Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the entire QEII Medical Centre Campus;
    • Princess Margaret and King Edward Memorial Hospitals;
    • The Frankland Centre at Graylands Hospital; and
    • health services in Armadale, the Goldfields and the Kimberley.
    Health services in the Great Southern, South-West, Pilbara, Mid-West and Wheatbelt began phasing-out smoking last year by introducing the policy just for staff.

    Royal Perth Hospital mailroom worker and long-term smoker Clive Peters has committed to giving up from today. Mr Peters said the smoking ban had given him the motivation he needed to quit.

    “I have tried quitting several times before but now work is a smoke-free environment, I won’t have as many opportunities to smoke,” he said.

    “If I’m not able to have a cigarette for eight hours straight, I will eventually find it easier to smoke less. This time I am prepared and I know I will quit.”

    Smoking accounts for about 1,500 deaths in WA each year and costs the State tens of millions of dollars.

    In 2004, more than 14,700 people were admitted to WA hospitals with smoking-related conditions. Those patients occupied 82,000 bed days and cost the WA health system more than $78million.

    Community members interested in quitting smoking are encouraged to call 13QUIT or visit http://www.quitwa.com

    For more information about the Smoke Free WA Health System Policy, visit http://www.health.wa.gov.au/smokefree

    Minister's Office - 9422 3000