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County board considers tobacco-free policy

Plan would not affect Freeborn County Fairgrounds or county parks

Most Freeborn County property could be tobacco-free in the near future.

Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost and Statewide Health Improvement Program Coordinator Alice Englin presented the plan to make most county property smoke free by July 1 during a study session on Tuesday. The ban would not affect Freeborn County Fairgrounds or county parks.

“It’s also important for public safety, for residents who do business on the sites also,” Yost said.

According to Yost, county employees and residents have had to walk through cigarette smoke outside the courthouse, causing concern for secondhand smoke risks.

Yost read a letter of support for a similar ban in Olmsted County from the Rochester Post-Bulletin and cited a report that found each employee who smokes during work costs employers $3,391 a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Olmsted County plans to ban tobacco on county grounds May 1.

Yost discussed a tobacco ban in Rice County that officials said promotes a safe working environment and prevents tobacco-causing cancers and breathing problems.

According to a study Yost cited, 42 percent of workers attempt to quit smoking when employers ban it. Banning tobacco use on county property reduces the risk of fire, Yost said.

Employees who violate the policy could face discipline. Visitors could be trespassed from county property.

Ashtrays on county grounds are expected to be removed.

District 1 Commissioner Glen Mathiason said the ban would be efficient.

“Ultimately, it would save taxpayers money,” he said.

Yost said a meeting was held with county officials who support the ban.

The plan is expected to come before the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. 

District 4 Commissioner Chris Shoff said he supports the ban.

“With many in the surrounding area that have already done this — including the city of Albert Lea and all the companies in this area that have implemented their own policy — it is a matter of time that Freeborn County follows through with our own tobacco-free initiative,” he said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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