Commission Chairman Revisits Smoke-Free Policy for Madison Co. Employees

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong wants to extinguish cigarettes in the county - for good.

In March Strong proposed to the commission a ban on smoking and smokeless products, such as tobacco, at all county facilities and in all county vehicles. The commission took no action on the information item at the time but the issue was revisited at Wednesday's meeting.

"Most government agencies have already done this," says Strong. "Madison County is late to this policy."

But the chairman says better late than never. Strong said the ban would include a prohibition on smoking outside the courthouse, which is currently permitted.

"I don't think we can move fast enough on this issue," Strong argues.

Strong said his proposal is motivated by having healthier employees, which would drive down health insurance costs.

"To enter into the Madison County Courthouse through security you're having to walk through benches and benches of people who are generally out there smoking," he says. "We're wanting to proceed and do something that's right for the people."

The no-smoking idea is part of a bigger picture of trying to keep insurance costs as low as possible, Strong said. The commission is also aiming for 100 percent participation from its 1,300 employees to take part in health screenings that could potentially identify issues in the early stages.

"It's the right thing to do by our tax payers for their health as well," says Strong. "When you come to do business at a county facility you're not going to have to go through a smoke screen to get there to do it."

The commission has been conscious of health care costs, choosing to go with a private insurance carrier last year rather than remain self-insured. The commission estimated a savings of about $5 million with the change.

The chairman says he would like to see the policy adopted by October 1 but several commissioners have recommended moving slowly on this issue. Strong says he plans to discuss the matter further with his colleagues during a work session scheduled for early September.

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