19/02/2014

Smoking could also be banned in private offices

It’s not just bars and restaurants that would have to change their policies if voters approve a smoking ban in April.

A section in the ordinance would require all “enclosed places of employment” to go smoke-free. That would include company vehicles, work spaces and private offices.

Smoke Free St. Joe says it’s an effort to protect the majority of St. Joseph’s workers from secondhand smoke, while business owners say it will ultimately hurt their bottom line.

Brett Hausman, executive vice president of Al J. Mueller Construction Co., said he fears the ordinance is too broad and should not be placed on private businesses, especially in areas where employees don’t interact with the public.

For example, employees of Al J. Mueller are allowed to smoke in company vehicles if their passenger consents. Employees also are allowed to smoke in the company’s shop/fabrication space and at construction sites, unless the owner of the property objects.

“Restaurants are one thing, but to push this into private offices is wrong,” Mr. Hausman said. “This ordinance seems like a solution looking for a problem.”

Dr. Jane Schwabe, co-chair of Smoke Free St. Joe, said the ordinance includes all places of employment in order to protect any employee who could be exposed to second-hand smoke.

“Basically, our whole point is this is a health thing,” Dr. Schwabe said. “This is to prevent the harmful effects of second-hand smoke as much as we can in as many places as we can.”

She added that employees still would be able to smoke outdoors, as long as the space is not “enclosed.” According to the ordinance, an enclosed area means any space between a floor and a ceiling that is bound by two walls, doorways or windows.

That means, Dr. Schwabe said, that some construction sites still could allow smoking. It also would protect outdoor patios from a ban.

Still, Mr. Hausman said he can foresee a loss in money for his company if employees are forced to stop what they’re doing to smoke, including while they’re driving.

“If two adults are in a truck and each are OK with smoking, why is this bad? They are consenting adults,” he said. “ ... If I smoked, why could I not in a building I own?”

He said he also takes issue with Section 16 of the ordinance, “Liberal Construction,” which states “This article shall be liberally construed so as to further its purposes.”

Voters will decide whether to pass the proposal on April 8. If approved, it will go into effect on June 7.

The ordinance bans smoking in all indoor public places, with the exemption of the St. Jo Frontier Casino gaming floor, 10 percent of hotel rooms, private vehicles or residences, and in membership clubs that have no employees present.

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