County contemplates nicotine-free workplace - WFXG FOX 54 - News Now

County contemplates nicotine-free workplace

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima County it taking the next step following a rigorous no smoking policy it passed nearly two years ago.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has sent a memo to the five member Board of Supervisors asking for support to implement new rules covering the use of /tobacco/nicotine.

Under the proposal, the county would not hire employees who use tobacco/nicotine. All applicants would be required to sign an affidavit saying they have not used tobacco/nicotine in the past 12 months.

Employees who receive insurance breaks because they are non-smokers would be randomly tested.

Those who fail would see an increase of up to 50% on their health insurance premiums.

Several county smokers, who would talk only on condition of anonymity, said the proposal is unfair.

One said it may prompt her to quit.

The issue for the employees is the county rules following them home after work. 

Dawn Garcia, who is neither a county employee not smoker, says "I would probably think it's too far. On my own time, I can do what I want."

 District V Supervisor Richard Elias says the proposal "is taking a whole new tactic of being punitive, of being necessarily man and discriminatory."

But he will not say whether the proposal has board support.

"I will not speak for my colleagues," he says but adds he will not support the proposal in its present form.

"This is not the right way to do this," he says. "This is a punitive, ugly, nasty way of confronting a difficult situation."

Huckelberry would not comment on the proposal.

His proposal says smokers are expensive. A smoker costs the county $3,400 more than non smoker.

The county voted nearly two years ago to become self insured and he says in his memo "smokers have a direct impact on the viability of the self insurance fund."

He also says "although there may be some controversy initially, as there was with the tobacco free initiative two years ago, I am confident it will be short lived."

Huckelberry is looking for input from a variety of sources before bringing it before the board, which he is anticipating will be in September.

But Elias feels even though the non smoking initiative passed two years ago was designed to help employees quit, an initiative which he supported, he doesn't feel its been enough time to to determine whether the education and quit smoking programs have had a chance to work.

"In America we're about freedom and liberty," he says. This proposal "is not what we've traditionally done in the country."

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