Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital’s plans to become an entirely smoke-free campus this fall could serve as a prelude to a similar ban at the Downers Grove municipal complex and at restaurants in the village.
The DuPage County Health Department presented an award to the Downers Grove hospital at a June 2 ceremony. Smoking inside the hospital, 3815 Highland Ave., has been banned for years, but hospital President David Fox said “we are taking it a step forward” by prohibiting smoking outside as well.
The ban is slated to take effect Thursday, Nov. 16, for Downers Grove’s largest employer and the other 10 hospitals in the Advocate Health Care system. Fox said the ban was important given that the hospital treats many patients suffering from the effects of smoking.
“It is so terribly important to reduce the use of tobacco products in America,” he said.
According to the hospital, eight Illinois residents die each day from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Good Sam’s announcement drew the attendance of Patrick Reynolds, who is the grandson of tobacco company founder RJ Reynolds. He began to speak out against the industry his family helped create after having his father, brother and other relatives die from emphysema and lung cancer. He even admitted to having a tobacco addiction himself before quitting.
Reynolds said Good Sam will become the second hospital in DuPage County to ban smoking entirely on its grounds.
“It just makes sense for a facility that promotes health to go smoke-free,” he said.
Reynolds serves as president of the Foundation for Tobaccofree Earth and tours the country making motivational speeches, especially targeting youth about the perils of smoking. A large portion of his presentation was geared to members of an eighth-grade Herrick Middle School class.
He told the students and other audience members that watching his father deteriorate from the “product that made my family wealthy … is my deepest wound.”
Reynolds criticized marketing campaigns geared toward children from Joe Camel to more recent ads depicting candy-flavored cigarettes.
The American Lung Association handed out F grades to the state for smoke-free air quality, youth access to cigarettes and tobacco prevention spending from state leaders, Reynolds said. He credited states that have approved smoking bans in restaurants and bars and hopes Illinois and other states could join that list.
“Getting there will be no rose garden. It will be a struggle against powerful forces,” Reynolds said.
American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer said the education about the risks of
smoking has prompted a movement across the nation to ban smoking in public buildings. Since an exemption to the state’s 1989 Clean Indoor Act was approved last year, 19 municipalities have passed smoking bans, Wimmer said.
“What does this really mean?” Wimmer said. “I think we will see a smoke-free Illinois.”
There are 2.5 million smokers in Illinois, Wimmer said. He credited Good Sam for being a leader with the ban, “which makes such a tremendous statement.”
Health educator Gary Sooter of the DuPage County Health Department said Burr Ridge and Hinsdale have enacted restaurant smoking bans that will take effect in July.
Downers Grove Mayor Brian Krajewski said serious discussion already has taken place to ban smoking from the Village Hall and Police Department campus, 801 and 825 Burlington Ave. Several communities including Woodridge, Willowbrook, Naperville and Downers Grove have talked about passing a restaurant and bar smoking ban at the same time, Krajewski said.
The reason behind a simultaneous ban would be to ease concerns that towns with bans would lose business when customers flock to another community, Krajewski said. The mayor would expect some opposition to a ban in Downers Grove, but pointed out studies showed similar bans had no economic impact on the business community.
Krajewski hoped communities interested in establishing an area smoking ban might be able to take action sometime later this year.
As part of a class project, the Herrick students have done their part to help promote a smoke-free Downers Grove by contacting legislators and creating an awareness campaign at school. History teacher Jay Swanstrom said he was not surprised at his students’ passion for the project, which he said has been entirely student-driven.
Eighth-grader Charlotte Manthey said the initiative might not seem like part of a regular history class curriculum, “but it is making history.”
All the students were given an award by the hospital for their project.