Friday, Jul 25, 2014
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City wants to nip tobacco use in the butt


Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 05:30 PM

First, Brooksville officials cracked down on employees who didn't use deodorant or wear underwear, which sparked debate about whether they were infringing on workers' personal choice.

Now city officials might crack down on employee tobacco use - both at work and during their personal time - by requiring them to quit smoking after one year. The proposal would also disqualify for employment anyone who admits to the habit.

During Monday's 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, council members will consider a tobacco policy that forbids smoking or chewing the substance on city property, in city-owned vehicles and personal vehicles that are on city property or are being used for a city function.

The policy applies to city employees and the public alike.

For employees, they would have one year to quit using smoking or chewing tobacco or face disciplinary action that includes termination, "Depending on the facts and circumstances of each infraction."

Employees could also pay to participate in a smoking cessation program on their own time.

Although City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha wasn't available for comment Friday, Mayor Lara Bradburn said she supports the creation of a tobacco-free workplace and any program that encourages employees to quit smoking. She also agrees with the practice of not hiring people who smoke.

"There's no reason people should smoke," Bradburn said. "Nothing good ever came from smoking."

Referring to smoking as the root of all evil - particularly following her mother's troubles with the habit - Bradburn said that eliminating tobacco use would help decrease city insurance rates - at cost savings to taxpayers - while helping employees be healthier.

However, she said she hasn't read the entire proposal and doesn't believe the policy would be taken to extremes.

"We're not going to have Big Brother peering into people's homes," Bradburn said. "We're not talking about extremes - we're talking about the honor system."

She added that city staff would focus on helping habitual smokers rather than those who use tobacco on random occasions.

According to a survey of 84 out of 130 employees who responded, 77 were in favor of a smoke-free workplace - 50 of whom added that they would support a smoking area 20 feet from the building.

One employee who smoked reported he or she would try to stop smoking while another claimed he or she would seek other employment.

The policy was likened to city officials' attempts to update city codes and provisions with what private businesses and corporations are doing.

Last year, council members approved a dress code that included provisions that employees must use deodorant and wear undergarments.

All but council member Joe Bernadini approved the measure, which he said was due to it being "a little far-fetched."

Bradburn said that move was blown out of proportion. She added that many private and public companies already have similar tobacco policies in place.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office, for instance, requires new hires to sign a document that includes a provision certifying that the employee doesn't use tobacco and won't in the future. Those who do could face disciplinary actions, including termination.

Meanwhile, Bradburn said hers is just one opinion and that council members could decide to make the policy less restrictive.

"I just know that I wish to God that someone had made my mother quit smoking. She might still be here today," Bradburn said. "But, it should be an interesting discussion come Monday."


Reporter Jeff Schmucker can be reached at 352-544-5271 or jschmucker@hernandotoday.com.

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