09/18/08 — Board of Health sets no-smoking policy for county offices

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Board of Health sets no-smoking policy for county offices

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 18, 2008 1:38 PM

The Board of Health voted Wednesday to adopt a no-smoking policy for the county office building and voted for an earlier-created disaster response plan to be submitted to the county commission.

Health Director James Roosen also announced a tentative date for the first flu clinic. The Health Depart-ment anticipates having 1,700 doses of the flu vaccine, he said, with a vaccination clinic planned for Oct. 16. Details will be announced later, he said.

The board already planned to discuss the smoking policy, which had previously been approved by the board, at next month's meeting.

But it came under fire on Wednesday as several board members weighed in on its fairness.

The policy, Roosen said, was devised jointly between public health and the Department of Social Services, which also occupies the county office building. It states that smoking is prohibited near all entrances, with a designated area set up for smokers.

"This almost falls short for me," said board member Dr. Michael Gooden, noting how the public schools and Wayne Memorial Hospital have recently adopted a tobacco-free campus policy, with Wayne Community College considering a similar move.

"I would love to see us keep smokers off the campus and off the property, but you have to have some sort of assistance program in place (for cessation)."

Board member Mark Bryan said to implement such a policy, a six-month to one-year notice is usually recommended.

Smoking cessation and drugs to assist with quitting are available options, Roosen said. At the same time, he added, legislation allows agencies to set no- smoking areas 50 feet from the building.

"We know that smoking is killing a lot of people in our area, and we're in public health," Roosen said. "At the time when we wrote this policy, it was the best compromise. I would recommend we take a look at this before the next board meeting."

Board member Ira Thigpen raised concerns about rights. He cited as an example a recent late-night visit to the hospital, where he encountered two women in a remote area away from the building. Thigpen said when he went to check on their safety, he found they were smoking.

"As long as smoking's legal and these people are taxpayers, I don't see how you can make it a tobacco-free campus," he said.

Gooden said he respectfully disagreed.

"We're protecting the non-smokers," he said.

Thigpen said the measure was "discriminating against your employees and taxpayers coming up here. It's their right to do it. ... I just don't like the idea of doing it and treating people that way as long as it's a legal product."

Chairman Steve Smith asked whether a vote was required since the topic was scheduled for discussion at the October board meeting.

Gooden made a motion to renew the policy, which was passed by the board.

A disaster response plan created more than a year ago was also adopted and will be submitted to the county commission for approval.

David Hesselmeyer, regional preparedness coordinator for Public Health Regional Surveillance Team, said the 268-page document had already been sent to and reviewed by other agencies affiliated with the Health Department, including Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Wayne County Emergency Services, Red Cross, Wayne Memorial Hospital, and the city of Goldsboro.

The plan covers a variety of areas such as command and control of responses, division of responsibility and resources during an emergency, and an internal and external notification plan, Hesselmeyer explained.

The plan must be reviewed annually, Hesselmeyer explained as he asked the board to sign off on it and in turn request the Wayne County Office of Emergency Services submit the plan to the commission for approval.

Board member Kim Larson asked whether the plan was similar to those used in other counties.

"Every county has to have a plan," Hesselmeyer answered. "Some don't have as much detail. I followed basically the state emergency management plan.

"I would think that this is a little bit more in-depth than some but without a doubt, some may be more complex."

Roosen said he had studied the existing plan and was pleased with the work and what was included in the document.

Bryan asked how the document would be used next.

Hesselmeyer explained it would be used in trainings and periodic practices with other agencies.

"We have got to exercise that plan or part of it twice a year," he said.