Ottawa County campuses become smoke free

8:34 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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CVS Caremark plans to phase out tobacco products by Oct. 1

WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WZZM) - A new anti-smoking policy in Ottawa County is meant to get employees and others to cut the habit and be healthier. Starting this year, smoking is banned from all county campuses, as part of an effort to reduce healthcare costs.

Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg hopes employees and others who visit county properties get the message.

"Smoking is one of those habits that will cause health problems in the future, and so I think we can unabashedly say we strongly encourage anyone who's smoking to stop smoking," says Vanderberg.

The policy bans anyone from smoking on county property, both inside and outside. Vanderberg says its meant to lower health care costs.

"Right out of the gate we would have to cover 20% more for a health premium for someone's choice to smoke, and that ends up costing everyone in the plan to subsidize that behavior," says Vanderberg.

Starting in 1987, a state law required anyone who wanted to smoke to move outside of public buildings. In 2008, Ottawa County expanded that by forcing people who smoke to stay at least 25 feet away from door. Now in 2013, the new policy prohibits smoking anywhere on a county campus.

At Admiral Discount Tobacco in Grand Haven, customers say it's becoming harder to find anywhere to smoke.

"I'd like to tell them leave me alone, basically, leave us alone," says Paul Turner, who opposes the recent smoking ban.

"There should be a designated smoking area, away from the door and away from the general public, so I disagree with no smoking at all," says Larry Amstutz, who also opposes the ban.

"This is an intrusion to some extent into people's 'rights', so to say in some ways, but again the county taxpayers are providing a health plan for county employees," says Vanderberg.

Vanderberg also hopes the new policy will help the 10% of county employees who do smoke, break the habit.

The county offers free programs to help employees quit smoking. County officials say anyone violating the smoking policy will get several warnings and if the behavior continues they could be fired.

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