Health

Smoke breaks just got much more difficult for Kentucky state employees—an expanded tobacco-free workplace policy goes into effect today for state buildings.

And a state official said the new policy affects thousands of state employees who smoke, and officials are hopeful it will help convince some employees to enter smoking cessation programs.

The tobacco-free policy expands on the current rules prohibiting smoking inside state owned or leased buildings and vehicles to parking lots, sidewalks and green spaces.  It also expands the list of banned products to include e-cigarettes, dip, snuff and chew.

Personnel Cabinet Secretary Tim Longmeyer said as Kentucky’s largest employer, it’s state government’s duty to establish an example and a vision of healthy working and living in the state.

Kentucky has the highest smoking and lung cancer rate in the U.S., he noted.

“We need to do everything we can to make our population healthier,” Longmeyer said.

Kentucky joins Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Delaware as states that have implemented a tobacco-free policy on state property.

More than 26.4 million square feet will become tobacco-free when the policy goes into effect, meaning 2,888 state-owned buildings and 568 leased properties will be effected.

An estimated 33,000 state employees will be affected by the policy. Nearly 5,000 executive branch state workers report using tobacco, according to  Gov. Steve Beshear’s office.

So, what will smokers do now that they can’t step outside for a quick puff?

Longmeyer said he hopes they commit to quitting for good. He said they plan to encourage employees to take advantage of cessation programs.

“We hope that there is a serious reduction in the use of tobacco products—not only among the state’s workforce, but among the public,” he said.

Executive branch management and facility management personnel will enforce the policy.

Longmeyer said a violation of the policy will be handled just like any other employee violation.

“If the action continues unabated there would be the potential for discipline. It is an important part of employment policy and will be enforced, but we understand there will be a learning curve and there will be a transition to the new policy,” he said.

The policy is part of Gov. Beshear’s health initiative to reduce smoking rates by 10 percent by 2019.