No ifs, ands or butts: Smoking out near Rouss

Posted: February 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

New no-smoking signs have been posted at the front and rear entrances to Rouss City Hall. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Lighting up is no longer allowed around Rouss City Hall.

City Manager Dale Iman said Monday that he has declared the grounds around the structure a no-smoking zone. Signs denoting the site as a smoke-free campus have been placed outside the building.

“It’s a fact that smoking doesn’t promote good health and is associated with a variety of health problems,” he said. “It also contributes to the use of sick leave. People who are smokers are typically away from their workplace more frequently than nonsmokers, too, so it affects productivity.”

Iman, who said he smoked for about 10 years many years ago, noted that the city government is placing a greater emphasis on wellness. He added that smoking can also create public perception problems.

“The idea of employees gathered away from their workplace smoking or doing other non-job-related activities,” he said, “does create a negative image in the eyes of many citizens.”

While the sign specifically refers to smoking, Iman said his intent is that the campus be free of all tobacco.

Smoking in public places isn’t only on Iman’s radar. State Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, has submitted a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would allow localities to ban smoking in public recreation areas, including parks.

The legislation passed the Senate on a 26-14 vote Feb. 4, and is being reviewed by a House committee. State Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R-Upperville, voted to approve the bill.

In November 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking in most public spaces, including parking garages and bus shelters. The ordinance also prohibited tobacco use within 50 feet of all athletic fields and bleachers, playgrounds and other activity facilities.

The Timbrook Public Safety Building already was smoke-free, Iman said, and department heads who have operations in other city buildings have been asked to evaluate whether such policies should be enacted at those sites.

Amy Simmons, the city’s marketing coordinator, said officials do not track the number of government employees who use tobacco products.

The city government does not directly offer any smoking cessation programs, she said, but a note distributed regarding the City Hall smoking change included information about locations where employees could obtain information about such programs.

Frederick and Clarke county leaders do not ban smoking on the grounds of government buildings.

Smoking is permitted outside the Frederick County Administrative Offices. County Administrator John Riley said no discussions have been held about making the facility’s grounds smoke-free.

Clarke County officials enacted an ordinance in 1989 that prohibited smoking in parts of county government buildings that are open to the public, County Administrator David Ash said, but it doesn’t bar people from smoking outside them.

He said no discussions have been conducted about changing that policy.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com