Algonquin considering tobacco-free campus policy

Updated 9/15/2015 5:38 AM
  • The Algonquin village board Tuesday will decide whether to prohibit smoking/tobacco on municipal property.

      The Algonquin village board Tuesday will decide whether to prohibit smoking/tobacco on municipal property. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Smoking might be banned on municipal properties in Algonquin if the village board moves to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy.

The proposed policy would prohibit tobacco use on all village campuses, including the Ganek Municipal Center, the historic village hall, the public works facility, wastewater and water treatment plants and pumping stations.

Additionally, staff members and employees would not be allowed to smoke in village-owned vehicles or in privately owned vehicles parked on village property, according to the proposal. Any violation of that policy would result in disciplinary action, said Human Resources Director Todd Walker.

If trustees approve the policy at Tuesday's village board meeting, it would become effective Jan. 1. Walker said the policy change would serve a dual purpose: It would encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles, while also lowering health insurance costs.

"The goal of this is to help the employees from a health perspective and also from a financial perspective," he said. "And because the cost of insurance increases every year, anything you do to offset those costs benefit our residents."

A recent wellness survey shows that about 20 percent of all village employees are tobacco users, he said.

The tobacco-free campus policy would mirror what the legislature passed in Illinois last year that prohibits all tobacco use on public state universities and campuses, Walker said. Smoking in public buildings has been banned statewide since 2008.

At last week's committee of the whole meeting, Trustees Jerry Glogowski and Robert Smith voted against moving the proposal forward, saying the policy could cause smokers some difficulty.

Glogowski suggested that the policy be phased in over six months to a year, allowing employees who smoke ample time to adjust. Village President John Schmitt said a policy change would not be a surprise to anyone, as the village has communicated the proposed change to all staff members.

Additionally, Walker said, village officials are offering educational opportunities for employees who wish to reduce or eliminate their tobacco use.

"It's going to be a work in progress, but we are up to that challenge," he said.

If employees choose to continue smoking, they would have to leave the property during a smoke break, which Smith said would inconvenience those employees and potentially their employers.

"Let's not make the people who do smoke so isolated and basically victimized and say you have to leave the physical premises all the way and drive across the street instead of staying in your car," Smith said.

Walker said allowing employees to smoke in their car on municipal campuses may blur the lines and lead to a slippery slope.

Trustee John Spella said the proposed policy change is a majority movement, as similar policies have been enacted at local school districts and other municipalities in recent years.

"Stop trying to save their freedom of smoking in their car, and start looking at the health benefits of what this could do for them and what it can do for our savings of our health insurance policies," Spella said. "This could be the best thing for these people. This could save their lives."

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