FORT GORDON, Ga. -- The Eisenhower Army Medical Center will become a tobacco-free facility June 30, to encourage healthier choices and protect those working in and receiving care at the medical center.

The medical community recognizes that tobacco use as the most important preventable cause of death and chronic illness in the United States.

A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General declared there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, including residual smoke residue that lingers on the clothing of smokers. So to protect everyone on our medical campus from the adverse effects, the use of tobacco products is prohibited on the grounds.

A separation of smokers from others does not eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and providing spaces to smoke does not assist people with quitting or providing a healthier environment.

The new policy will ban the use of all nicotine products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes, on the EAMC Campus and outlying buildings.

Building and maintaining smoking areas sends a message of approval for smoking and tobacco use. A smoke-free workplace is healthier with reduced hazards and risks for all employees and patients.

Furthermore, reduced employee smoking prevalence reduces absenteeism, increases productivity, and reduces direct health care costs.

The new policy applies to all employees, patients, and visitors at the medical center and the only exception is that employees and patients are allowed to use nicotine in their vehicles that are parked in the parking area. Smoking will not be allowed in the parking areas.

Additionally, the U.S. Army is encouraging every Soldiers and Department of the Army employees to quit using tobacco products.

Published in April 2015, Army Regulation 600-63 prohibits tobacco use in all workplaces except for designated smoking areas and all military healthcare personnel are not allowed to use any tobacco products during the duty day or while in uniform.

EAMC's new tobacco policy was approved by the Fort Gordon American Federation of Government Employees Union and, for eligible employees who want to quit tobacco, the health care facility has classes and programs to help. You can schedule an appointment with the EAMC Behavioral Health Clinic at 706-787-8134 or 706-787-3143 for smoking cessation classes or visit the Fort Gordon Army Wellness Center.

For online resources to help you quit tobacco, please visit http://smokefree.gov and www.ucanquit2.org.