Tallahassee officials are considering whether to keep smokers out of city jobs. The City Commission will be deciding whether to have these bans put in place.
Commissioner Nancy Miller is proposing new rules that she says would foster healthier civil servants and save the city money. Miller says smokers are more expensive to insure.
“Right now, folks that smoke are contributing a larger percentage of drain on the health care system provisions,” Miller says.
Residents are weighing in. On Wednesday, residents argued both sides of the issue before the city commission. Resident Curtis Baynes is accusing the city of hindering the job prospects of Floridians.
“So essentially we’re going to exchange one box asking about criminality for another, asking about non-criminality, because as far as I know, as disgusting as the smoking may be, smoking is still legal,” Baynes says.
He was talking about the city’s move to ban the box where former convicts must self-identify to potential employers. Commissioner Nancy Miller says the city would try to persuade current employees to quit smoking. Only new hires would be affected.
“We have some very good cessation programs in the city, and so this just re-emphasizes the fact that those are going to be available to people,” Miller says. “And people are going to be encouraged to use those. And we’re going to try to do everything we can to furnish people with what they need to quit.”
Florida State University health worker Andree Aubrey praises the commission for encouraging programs to improve quality of life. She says banning smokers and working toward helping people quit would make sense for Tallahassee.
“It’s good for the city. It reduces your direct medical expenses and health care costs,” Aubrey says. “It increases productivity. And the CDC estimates that’s a value of about $3,400 for each employee annually who is able to quit tobacco.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show about 18 percent of Americans are smokers. Rules for smoking and employment vary across the country. Some states prohibit quote “lifestyle discrimination” and others allow exemptions that would exclude smoking as protected lifestyle. Even a few Florida counties—including Marion and Pinellas—have rules that limit smoking in government facilities and among workers. The new policy in Tallahassee would go into effect in 2017.