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Should Olmsted County ban tobacco use on its properties? Many think so

Should Olmsted County ban tobacco use on its properties? Many think so

Administrators from Olmsted County are pushing a proposal that would ban tobacco products from public places owned by the county, with some exceptions.

A committee tasked to explore a policy change will present a series of recommendations next Tuesday to the County Board. The initiative is in response to a recent survey of more than 600 county employees that found 86 percent of workers would either like to see a tobacco ban or had no preference.

Helen Monsees, the county's director of facilities and building operations, said the county also received about 500 unsolicited comments, all about not wanting to have to walk through second-hand smoke.

"This really addresses two things," said Monsees. "One is the second-hand smoke issue, which as a facility’s coordinator, that’s a real problem. The other piece of it, from the wellness perspective, is to support people in their efforts to stop using tobacco.”

The proposal has already received support from county department heads, as well as the Health Services Advisory Board. However, next week's meeting will be the first time the board has heard a full presentation on the issue.

"Our request on Tuesday is going to be that they support this initiative and direct us as staff to develop a policy to bring forward to them for their final approval," said Monsees.

The committee is recommending a prohibition of all kinds of tobacco, not just smoking. The changes would affect all county parks and buildings, including its portion of the Government Center. 

 
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Monsees said she would like to see the initiative spark a conversation between the County Board and Rochester City Council. 

“It would be difficult to have the Government Center be tobacco-free, and City Hall not be tobacco-free," she said.

Employees and visitors would still be able to use tobacco in their vehicles, Monsees said, citing RCTC as an example where a similar policy has "worked quite well."

Other exemptions would include select drug treatment facilities and transitional living centers.

Click here to see the county's current smoking ordinance.


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(Cover photo: FIle / Raul Lieberwirth / Creative Commons)

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