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Oregon state employee smoking ban takes effect

Jan 4, 2013 | 2 Comments


By The Associated Press

SALEM — A no-smoking rule has taken hold throughout most of Oregon's state government, and with a few exceptions, state workers have to go outside to a sidewalk or private property to light up.

Prison guards are among the exceptions because there's no convenient place for them to smoke, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is a physician, signed the order in August, and it went into effect Tuesday. He said it would save money.

“Conservative estimates find that the state employees who smoke cost the state more than $13 million per year,” says his executive order.

About 4 percent of Oregon's 50,000 state workers smoke, according to a survey done by the state benefits board. The ban extends to chewing tobacco.

Workers will mostly be on the honor system, since the governor can't issue fines.

“People generally respond to rules, honestly,” said Tony Green, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services.

The state has slowly been pushing workers toward quitting. Its health insurance benefits cover programs and products to help people quit, and a new health engagement program will require smokers to take smoking cessation classes.

Workers who use tobacco are charged $25 per month on top of their insurance premiums, and if they and their spouse use tobacco, the charge is $50.

The state has been steadily reducing smoking areas in Oregon, requiring smoke-free workplaces in a 2001 law and extending that in 2007 to bars and restaurants.

Within state government, the Department of Corrections, Oregon Youth Authority and Department of Parks and Recreation have until the end of 2014 to come up with a plan that will allow their employees to comply with the new ban.

Prisons, for example, are so large and the working areas so far from privately owned land that it's unclear where those employees will go to smoke.

The ban doesn't apply to college campuses, although some have already created similar rules.

Barb O'Neill, an administrative specialist with the Department of Education, said she didn't mind the new rule but was frustrated with how it was implemented.

“It makes sense, but they never told us where we could smoke,” she said. “There's no specific area where we're allowed.”

Green said the state did that on purpose.

“We're not telling people where they can smoke,” he said. “We're just telling them where they can't.”

O'Neill said the new rule has had its intended effect: She plans to quit.

“I can't afford it, it's bad for your health, and this is kind of the clincher,” she said.

___

Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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Comments

10:16 am - Sun, January 6 2013
Dances with Redwoods said:
If the state is going to ban smoking on state property, for health reasons, then all should be protected under the law, especially the correctional staff as their jobs are dangerous enough as it is, And it is what it is, for health reasons ..or.. is it not?

If a correctional officer cannot cope with not smoking tobacco over the course of a shift ... it begs another question. Why not switch to chewing tobacco, would that not be a healthier choice for a nicotine addict working on government property?

I see this as no different than using any other addictive substance that can be taken/used for personal reasons. Smokers are more of a threat to others than chewers/dippers are.
10:32 am - Sun, January 6 2013
Dances with Redwoods said:
I just looked it up on the Internet so it must be true, there are no recorded cases of anyone having died due to second hand chew.

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