St. Benedict's Hospital has expanded its ban on employee smoking to include all hospital property and employees' private cars on the grounds.

Hospital spokeswoman Libby Craig said the decision stemmed from problems caused by employees congesting the hospital's entrances while smoking."It was felt strongly that as a health-care facility, St. Benedict's should provide an appropriate environment for patients and non-smoker visitors," she said.

She said a hospital task force that included smokers as well as non-smokers simply enlarged on a 1988 policy.

"At that time, employees were not allowed to smoke around certain designated entrances, but enforcement of those rules was never consistent," Craig said.

She said the hospital has no authority over employees in their cars parked off the hospital grounds.

"This ruling only covers what employees do on hospital property. What they do elsewhere is none of the hospital's business," Craig said.

She said the policy also will not ban visitors or patients from smoking outside the hospital. Some patients, with dispensations from their doctors, are allowed to smoke in the building.

Jenny Walton, spokeswoman for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, praised the decision.

She said the group had gotten calls to provide smoking cessation classes from companies planning to initiate smoke-free-building policies, including Mountain Fuel and GSC Foundries.

St. Benedict's offers free smoking cessation classes to its employees.

"Naturally, there are a few people who are not happy with the new policy, but most of the employees are in favor of the move," Craig said.

She said failure to comply would be met at first with polite reminders, but continued noncompliance will be handled in accordance with the hospital's standard four-step disciplinary action policy.

However, she said, "People will not be terminated for failure to comply."

A spokesman for McKay-Dee Hospital, which adopted a smoke-free-building policy at about the same time as St. Benedict's, said administrators have no plans to keep people from smoking outside the building.