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Hospitals’ smoking areas to disappear

BRADENTON — Health experts will tell you that smoking can earn you a trip to the hospital.

But as of Tuesday, Manatee County’s three hospitals will make sure you don’t light up anywhere near their buildings.

Manatee Memorial Hospital, Blake Medical Center and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center will go tobacco-free Tuesday, following the 2007 lead of hospitals and health departments in Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.

“It’s been an ongoing process for the last two years,” said Vernon DeSear, Manatee Memorial’s vice president of marketing and business development. “The other (counties’) hospitals did it back in 2007, and we’ve been catching up.”

Smoking has long been banned inside hospital buildings, but it was permitted outside. Manatee Memorial had two designated smoking areas outside its complex, DeSear said.

Now, smoking and the use of any tobacco product will be prohibited everywhere on the hospital properties.

According to a news release announcing the move, the Manatee hospitals understand “the health risks of tobacco use conflict with their objective of providing a safe and healthy environment for patients, employees, physicians and visitors.”

The American Lung Association says cigarette smoking claims 430,700 lives each year in the United States and costs $97.2 billion each year in health-care costs and lost productivity. Smoking is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer cases and the majority of emphysema and chronic bronchitis cases, the association says.

The American Heart Association calls smoking the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. The association says smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease aortic aneurysm.