Thursday, May 24, 2012
The city of East Ridge is considering a couple of strategies to snuff out tobacco use on city property.
City Manager Tim Gobble is currently in the process of drafting two ordinances: one that would eliminate the use of any tobacco products on all city property and another that would limit all kinds of tobacco use on city property to designated areas. The City Council will pick its preferred ordinance and vote on it at either the May 24 or June 14 meeting, he said.
“Overall, banning tobacco could present a more pleasant environment for people visiting the park and going to athletic events,” said Gobble. “It could also help encourage more healthy lifestyles. One area of concern is in and around the park or other areas with children. It doesn’t portray the best image to kids.”
According to Gobble, both proposed ordinances apply to the City Hall complex that includes a small park and the community center as well as Camp Jordan, the sanitation yard and all fire or police facilities owned by the city.
“We can’t catch everyone and we’re not going to run around trying to look in people’s mouths,” said Gobble. “But when it’s really obvious or a nuisance, we’re going to ask them to stop or step into a designated area. We already restrict the use of profanity and alcohol, so I anticipate it’s not going to be a real problem.”
Gobble said the ordinance is an attempt to promote a family-friendly atmosphere in East Ridge and it also reflects a growing trend in eliminating unhealthy behaviors that can create costly insurance plans. For instance, he said the city of Dallas-Fort Worth has already implemented a policy where tobacco is prohibited on all city property and smokers or other tobacco users are not eligible to work for the city.
Tobacco use is already prohibited inside East Ridge city buildings or vehicles, but Gobble said the city may have to take additional steps to ban tobacco use for its employees.
“Our second biggest cost behind personnel is insurance, and our cost has increased 22 percent since last year,” he said. “We don’t want to discriminate but it’s a reality we’re facing with insurance. We’re got to look at, as an employer, what we can do to reduce claims and reduce premiums.”
The city is also looking at the feasibility of opening a modest gym facility for city employees that would improve their overall wellness and help make sure fire and police personnel could perform their jobs properly, said Gobble.