County commissioners Thursday approved a tougher smoking policy that starts Jan. 1. The new policy bans smoking on any county property.
This is a ban that will mostly affect county workers. They will not be allowed to smoke while on the clock.
County officials did make one concession. The county won't enforce the rules against those workers who smoke in their own cars during their 30-minute lunch breaks.
The new rules also are supposed to apply to members of the public and to contractors working on county property, though enforcement for them won't be as strict.
"We would ask them voluntarily not to (smoke)," said County Administrator Mike Bixler.
Smoking had long been banned in county buildings and county vehicles. It's also been forbidden near outside entrances to county buildings.
County Commissioners Nancy McKeen and Bill Monaghan voted 2-0 Thursday to approve the policy. Commissioner Tom Ferrell was not in attendance.
The county's Committee for Controlling Employee Health Care Costs drafted the new policy.
A letter from the commissioners is being sent to all county elected officials, boards, commissions and department heads, asking them to support the new policy.
Smoking by employees will be tolerated in personal vehicles while on "personal uncompensated" time, even if the cars are parked on county parking lots or in the county's parking garage in downtown Sandusky, although it's "strongly discouraged for health reasons," Bixler said.
Monaghan said it's appropriate to cut smokers a small amount of slack.
"You have to have some kind of compromise there," he said.
"It's their lungs," McKeen added.
Bixler explained each county worker gets a half hour of unpaid time for lunch, so that time period will provide the opportunity for smoking. Employees get two 15-minute breaks during the day, but they are paid during those breaks, so they can't smoke, he said.
Punishments for employees who disobey the ban could include warnings and written reprimands.
Bixler said it will be hard to figure out how the policy applies to all possible situations.
"If someone is in Columbus on a conference, that's going to be difficult to enforce," he said.
Also starting Jan. 1, the county has agreed to spend up to $450 for each county employee trying to quit smoking to cover nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation products. If enough money is available, the offer may be extended to employees' spouses.