Pima County's new smoking policy - Tucson News Now

Pima County's new smoking policy

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima County's new smoking policy isn't necessarily sweeping nor is it too strict.

It's in place more to remind county employees that's it's a problem health wise. Smoking costs about $18,000 more in health care costs per individual.

The county is looking towards a healthy county employee as a way to hold down health care costs to save taxpayer money.

If the county begins to randomly test its employees for tobacco use, then we're talking about a strict policy. Right now, it's voluntary. The county will also pay to help workers stop smoking.

However, there is a smattering of conversation about testing sometime in the future. That would be a way to save on health care premiums but it might lead to some agitated workers.

The county unanimously passed a new policy statement at it's weekly meeting. It bans the use of tobacco products on most county properties and facilities.

Parks, according to the county ordinance, are exempt.

People can still light up in a Pima County park but they cannot in a Pima County parking lot.

Where ever people congregate, tobacco use is discouraged.

While it mostly covers county employees, it also extends to vendors or people who attend county sponsored functions.  

Some supervisors used the vote to explain their opposition to smoking.

"My father died from emphysema brought on by smoking," District 4 Supervisor Ray Carroll said before the vote.

Retiring District 1 Supervisor Ann Day said her father died from the same disease, also brought on by smoking.

The smoking ban is part of a healthy employee push being made by the county. In the past few years, workers have been encouraged to eat healthy, exercise more and now, smoke less.

Whether is has an impact, studies are still years away.

But if the county sees its health care budget drop, stricter measures may not be implemented.

District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias says "It is in fact impossible to make an argument for having a place for people to smoke, impossible to do that."

He said he wants to make sure "our employees understand that we are moving forward on this."

Just how far forward is yet to be seen.

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