The Board of County Commissioners decided to increase the distance smokers need to walk from county buildings to take their cigarette breaks from 15 to 50 feet this week.
The current policy, enacted in August, requires smokers to be 15 feet from any entrance or exit to county buildings when they step out for a smoke. But Human Resources Director Kimberly Frock came back to commissioners to review it again on Sept. 27.
“There are two versions of the no smoking-tobacco use [policy],” Frock said. “Option A is that people are no longer allowed to smoke in equipment, vehicles, trucks, tractors — the whole gamut [in addition to the current 15-foot policy].”
“And we have out there the other option,” she said, “which is to make the county a smoke-free campus.”
Commissioners Stephen Wantz, R-District 1; Richard Weaver, R-District 2; and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, were present. Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Doug Howard, R-District 5 were absent.
Wantz and Weaver said although they felt like the county is behind on smoking policies, they were conflicted about taking away a person’s right to smoke.
“I understand [this] 100 percent,” Weaver said. “I don't understand why anybody wants to smoke, but if they do that's their right. I don't want to infringe on that.”
“From a health standpoint, I'd make the decision in a heartbeat,” Wantz said, “but it’s about those who have the right to do this. I'd maybe look at extending the distance away from buildings as an alternative here.”
Frazier, on the other hand, said that he felt people had a right to walk to a building from any side without passing through second-hand cigarette smoke.
“My feeling is if I'm working outside and someone is smoking next to me, I wouldn’t like it,” Frazier said. “I don't think I could tolerate it.
“I'm thinking job sites should be included even if it’s outside,” he said. “If I'm working in a specific area, I shouldn’t be exposed to second-hand smoke if someone is right there.”
Wantz said he agreed no one should have to walk through second-hand smoke at work.
“I don't appreciate walking through second-hand smoke,” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous to have to walk through smoke to get into a building.”
Frock also brought to commissioners county employee comments on the smoking policy.
“So I have sent you all the comments we have received,” Frock said. “As of this morning there were 75. Since I’ve been sitting here, it’s now 82; we got seven more in.”
Forty-four were in favor of a no-smoking campus, 33 were against, and five were neutral comments that didn’t take a stance, she said.
Frock also brought information on the smoking policies of surrounding counties.
“Howard County, theirs is the same as ours, 15 feet from an entrance or exit of a building,” she said.
Others are slightly different.
In Allegany County, smoking is prohibited throughout the work place and in Caroline County it is prohibited at county facilities, including 4-H and the youth park.
Dorchester County prohibits smoking on county property, as does Kent County — where smoking is also prohibited in county garage areas and pavilions, and smoke breaks are not allowed in addition to regular breaks.
In Garrett County, smoking is also prohibited in county buildings, parking lots and job sites.
Commissioners came to a compromise by deciding to increase the distance smokers are required to be from county-owned buildings from 15 feet to 50 feet — giving managers of buildings the option to designate specific areas for smoking away from entrances and exits of buildings.
“Fifteen feet is nowhere near enough,” said Frazier.
The 50-foot requirement also apples to county job sites, vehicles and equipment. Carroll County parks will remain non-smoking.
The Carroll County Farm Museum, Union Mills Homestead, and Recovery Support Services in Sykesville will be exempted from the regulation as they are often event venues; outdoor smoking will continue to be allowed at all times.
Also excluded from the regulation are the Department of Citizen Services buildings, which must continue their current 100-foot no-smoking radius as mandated by the state.
Commissioners asked what that would mean for the smoking posts that are currently under awnings about 15 feet from building entrances, to which county staff said they would be moved.
“There’s another incentive to quit, if you're going to stand in the rain,” Wantz said. “I'm not going to start building lean-tos for smokers. Not gonna happen.”
The policy will go into effect Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. The vote also stipulates the commissioners will re-visit the policy in six months.