County officials are looking at crafting a policy that would make tobacco use on any property owned, leased or controlled by Troup County.
Currently, smoking is not allowed in any county buildings, and some facilities have designated smoking areas. The proposed ordinance would ban all smoking on any county property, inside or outside, similar to West Georgia Health’s move to ban tobacco products.
Physician Margaret Schaufler brought in a list of 40 doctors in Troup County who all were in favor of the ban. She said her research shows that the majority of work sites now have similar policies. Since West Georgia Health implemented a similar ban, littering from cigarette butts has decreased dramatically, she said.
County Manager Tod Tentler said that the policy would also encourage employees to be tobacco free.
“We want to give them all the help we can and make a great environment for employees,” Tentler said.
Troup County Correctional Institute Warden Dexter Wells, a former smoker, said that the negative effects of tobacco use contributes to the death of 10,500 Georgia residents annually. The associated health care costs to Troup County is $2,284 per year for each employee who uses tobacco, Wells estimated, based on national figures. Lost work time from tobacco users equates to $2,574 per person per year and tobacco users are absent more often on average, costing an additional $466 per person each year.
The ordinance also would offer employees tools to help them quit, if they chose to, Wells said. They would have the ability to visit the WeCare clinic and resources from the Pastoral Institute and receive treatment and medications to aid in smoking cessation.
The county also might be able to negotiate lower rates for health, life and disability insurance, Wells said. He proposed an implementation date of June 1.
Commissioner Ken Smith said helping employees to quit smoking is something that is “well worth it.”
“I smoked some 35 years before I quit,” Smith said. “… Smoking is one of things that is addictive as it can be. It’s extremely hard to quit.”
Smith said he appreciated the work on the proposed policy and implementations that would give employees who are smokers the tools to help them quit.
“Food tastes better when you quit, life is better,” Smith said. “It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s well worth it.”
Smith suggested that county staff talk to some employees who smoke to find out what ways could best encourage them to quit. Staff will continue to refine the proposed policy before it is voted on by commissioners.