ROCKPORT — Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital have earned platinum level recognition from the annual Gold Star Standards of Excellence Program for their commitment to addressing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure through campus smoke and tobacco-free policies and promoting tobacco-free lifestyles.

“Comprehensive tobacco-free policies not only reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, they have been shown to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use, increase the number of tobacco users who quit and lower the number of young people who start using tobacco,” said Dr. Mark Fourré, president of PBMC and WCGH. “Our tobacco-free policies contribute to a healthier environment for all in our communities.”

The Gold Star Standards of Excellence Hospital and Healthcare Organization Program, part of the MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence’s Breath Easy initiative, recognizes healthcare organizations at the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels based on best-practice criteria such as a smoke and tobacco-free campus policy, annual screening for tobacco use, referral to tobacco treatment and supporting employee education related to tobacco treatment. This is the third consecutive year that PBMC and WCGH have received platinum level recognition. Both hospitals began participating in the program in 2010.

“We applaud the ongoing efforts of Maine hospitals and healthcare organizations to address tobacco use, secondhand smoke exposure and nicotine dependence by meeting the Gold Star Standards of Excellence,” said Kristen McAuley, tobacco prevention services director for the Center of Tobacco Independence. “Addressing tobacco use has continued importance during the current pandemic, as the U.S. CDC states that being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

For more information about the Gold Star Standards of Excellence, visit BreatheEasyMaine.org/GSSE.