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Nags Head extends smoking ban for town workers

Nags Head extends smoking ban for town workers

Nags Head employees will be prohibited from smoking cigarettes or using any type of tobacco product on town property, as well as in any municipal vehicle, under a new “tobacco-free campus” policy that goes into effect on Jan. 1.

      The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the personnel changes during its Nov. 1 meeting, and also directed town staff to return to its Dec. 6 meeting with an ordinance that extends those prohibitions to the public as well.

      Currently, the use of tobacco products is already prohibited in town buildings and municipal parks in Nags Head. The new rules extend the areas that are off limits to smoking for town employees.

      While all Dare County municipalities prohibit the use of tobacco in town buildings, this makes Nags Head the first to prohibit employees from using tobacco products on all town-owned property.

      The new regulations apply to cigarettes, as well as smokeless tobacco products such as e-cigarettes. And according to the new policy, violations would result in “disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

      “We’ve been telling our employees since July to get ready for it,” Town Manager Cliff Ogburn told the Sentinel, adding that signage has been posted on town property to remind employees of the upcoming policy changes. “They’ll either have to [smoke] before work, during lunch or after work.”

      Out of the town’s 115 employees, Ogburn estimates that about 15 smoke.

      The new employee policy evolved, he said, after internal discussions about ways to reduce health insurance premiums for the town and its employees.

      “When looking at wellness as a whole, tobacco cessation wasn’t something we had focused on [in the past] in conjunction with health insurance premiums,” Ogburn told commissioners. Smoking cessation courses are offered under the town’s health insurance plan.

      He added that a “smoke-free campus” policy was becoming increasingly common among industry and business, adding that two local businesses had contacted the town inquiring about implementing a similar policy for their employees.

      Mayor Pro Tem Susie Walters commended the town staff on the new policy.

      “This not only helps with the overall health of our staff, but I think you will see increased productivity, and hopefully it may encourage some smokers to quit. They’ll be more productive and have less time to smoke.”

      The Nags Head commissioners also directed town staff on Nov. 1 to bring back an ordinance that would prohibit visitors from using tobacco products on municipal property. Extending the regulations would require the passage of an ordinance, but would not require a public hearing.

      “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Commissioner John Ratzenberger. 

      According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, as of September of 2017, 17.9 percent of the state’s adults reported smoking cigarettes.

      As for other Dare County municipalities, the towns of Kill Devil Hills and Duck also prohibit tobacco use at municipal parks. But they don’t extend that prohibition to all town property as Nags Head did.

      In the town of Manteo, all public buildings are smoke free, but there are no regulations as far as town property.

      Kitty Hawk Town Manager Andy Stewart also said there are no ordinances in his town that govern tobacco use on town property. Southern Shores Town Manager Peter Rascoe stated that, “The town has never found it a concern or challenge to regulate its use on the outside. It’s never been a problem.”

      Rascoe added that he was “unaware of any town employees who smoke.”

      And in Duck, Town Manager Chris Layton told the Sentinel that, since town hall is located within Duck Town Park, which is a no-smoking area, “by default we have that policy in place. But in terms of a formal policy, we do not have that.”

      Dare County’s ordinance on tobacco use went into effect Jan. 1, 2013 and prohibits both employees and the public from using tobacco products in county buildings and on county property, except in county-designated smoking areas. That ordinance also prohibits the use of tobacco products in county-owned or leased vehicles.

      “Many of our properties have designated smoking areas,” said Dare County Risk Manager Sandy West. Dare County Parks & Recreation, Health Department and library sites do not have such areas. 

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Reporter, Outer Banks Sentinel

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