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County bans smoking at building entrances

People who have a problem walking through a cloud of cigarette smoke on the way in and out of the county's public  buildings will get some relief and smokers will be driven further away under a modified smoke-free policy the Board of Commissioners enacted today.

The commissioners voted unanimously to ban smoking around entrances to county-owned buildings and create separate smoking areas that will segregate smokers.

“In a perfect world I would go for a total ban but I think this is a compromise that makes sense,” Commissioner Michael Edney said.

With the passage of the smoking ban at building entrances, "We would work with people in those buildings, the leadership, and identify areas that are out of traffic and put together something tasteful that smokers would go to," County Manager Steve Wyatt said. "We would probably have a slant type roof and obviously you'd have to have a receptacle and that would have to be monitored and cared for."
The commissioners acted after a public health physician and a heart transplant recipient urged the ban on smoking that forces non-smokers to inhale harmful second-hand smoke when they walk in and out of public buildings where they have business.
"There are many physicians who are concerned about the wellness of our community," said Dr. Diane Curran of the Henderson County Health Department. "You see (the effects of smoking) with heart disease, emphysema, cancer and stroke. We have already made a decision as a community to reduce the amount of tobacco and smoke that is in the environment. I would love to see us do more. When you make an ordinance around tobacco-free, you also promote wellness."
The county already bans smoking inside all county buildings and in county vehicles. The proposal to ban smoking outside the buildings came after citizens complained about having to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoking to reach the library, Grove Street Courthouse and other public buildings.
Wyatt presented the board with the option of banning smoking entirely on all county property, creating a smoke-free perimeter around the building or creating designated smoking areas. The board chose the option of limiting smoking to "smoking areas located away from entrances and general traffic areas, and (away from areas) where people have to gather while doing business with the county or participating in county activities."
Wyatt said he envisions the county building small bus-stop like shelters as outdoor smoking areas except for in Jackson Park, where the smoking areas would be outside but away from bleachers and ball fields.
"Hopefully the wind would cooperate and blow away from the venue," Wyatt said.
Administrators met last month with department heads to discuss the tobacco-free options. All departments favored a smoke-free campus with the exception of the Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Social Services, he said. Those departments had concern for employees or clients who smoke.
"We've had concerns about how the clients there (at DSS) would react to that and the same to a lesser degree at the 1995 Courthouse," Wyatt said. "There are folks there who are a little bit nervous and they smoke and enforcement is an issue."
"It is a usual and normal practice to limit smoking located away from entrances" and to segregate smokers from the public "that has to do business with the county in that building," he added.
Wyatt warned the commissioners that they could hear more objections after the ban than they have heard up to now.
"I don't think you will hear from folks that would be directly effective, i.e., smokers, until there is a ban in place," he said.