City property goes tobacco-free today

Sioux Falls city property is tobacco-free starting today.

The city is fully implementing an initiative that started with Mayor Dave Munson’s administration in 2009. There now are no designated tobacco-use areas on city property. The policy applies to everyone – employees, customers, contractors and anyone doing city business on city property.

“We just decided it was the right thing to do. From a health issue, I think that’s an important part of it,” Munson said.

The city phased in the initiative. The first phase changed the city’s no-smoking policy to a no-tobacco-use policy, identified tobacco-use areas and offered tobacco cessation opportunities to help employees.

“It is an addiction, so we wanted to do it the right way,” said Bill O’Toole, human resource director.

If employees want to light up or chew tobacco now, they will have to go off city property while they are off the clock.

Employees knew the change was coming, and the issue was discussed two weeks ago among union members, said Maynard Magnuson, associate director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 59, which covers Sioux Falls.

“There are some people who are upset about it, but they understand it,” he said.

In 2009, about one-fourth of city employees used tobacco, said Angie Uthe, city compensation and benefits manager.

“We have had a fair amount who have either worked at reducing their tobacco usage and some that would actually quit and been successful,” she said.

Jennifer Stalley, government relations director of the American Cancer Society in South Dakota, said the city’s policy certainly would motivate employees to quit.

“If it’s not convenient to smoke, a person is not going to smoke as much,” she said.

South Dakota Municipal League officials were unaware of another city implementing a similar policy. State government properties and hospitals went tobacco-free in 2006. Some colleges also have become tobacco-free, including Southeast Technical Institute and the University of Sioux Falls.

Mayor Mike Huether is in full support of the change and said it’s a topic on which he struggles to remain impartial.

“Smoking killed my dad. It just had a devastating effect on my family, and if I could, I would speak one-on-one with every person that smokes out there and just let them know how sad it’s ultimately going to make their families someday,” he said.

source: argusleader.com

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