CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — As a commitment to the health and well-being of its employees and customers, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will implement a tobacco-free policy at all of its properties across the state effective Jan. 1, 2009.

As part of that policy, use of all tobacco products by both employees and tenants will be prohibited within or on the grounds of a BlueCross owned or leased property. Properties impacted by the new policy include those located in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Jackson, Johnson City, Memphis and Nashville.

“Smoking and use of tobacco products cost the United States billions of dollars in health care spending and lost productivity each year,” said Ron Harr, senior vice president of human resources for BlueCross. “Going tobacco-free is a natural way for our company to not only address these issues, but also set a healthy example for our members and fellow Tennesseans.”

In 2007, BlueCross began offering smoking cessation programs and other educational materials to its employees as a way to ensure a smooth transition to the new policy. Since that time the percentage of employees identifying themselves as tobacco users has dropped and company officials anticipate that number to further decrease.

According to a 2007 survey by the Tennessee Department of Health, one-quarter of Tennessee adults smoke cigarettes. It is the most preventable cause of death in the United States, causing 438,000 deaths annually.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.