MONTESANO — Employees making up Grays Harbor County’s safety committee have asked Grays Harbor County commissioners to ban smoking at the county’s work sites, including the historic courthouse and administration building and the Pearsall Building in Aberdeen.
“Science has established clearly that secondhand smoke is a health hazard, even when the exposure occurs outdoors,” the letter from the county employees sent in January states. “Many of the county employees do not smoke, and it is on their behalf that we request that you consider the adoption of rules prohibiting smoking on county work sites and other county properties.”
County Commissioners Herb Welch and Frank Gordon both said they may be open to the idea, although both have some concerns. Commissioner Wes Cormier says he’s not so sure it’s a good idea.
“I would personally be against it,” Cormier said. “Maybe it’s the Libertarian in me, but it’s legal to smoke and passing by a car you might get just as much second-hand smoke.”
The Safety Committee’s letter notes that their concern is an important issue that should be addressed.
“The Grays Harbor County Safety Committee believes that the Clean Indoor Air Act alone does not do enough to protect county employees, who are subjected to the smoke of others in breezeways, through ventilation ducks and through windows. …
“We commit our assistance and support to explore policy options, plan and implement any new rules and support the changes in our workplace with our co-workers. We have secured the commitment of the Health Department to lend expertise, as well.”
The county’s medical plan does cover ways to help county employees quit, notes Public Health Director Joan Brewster.
Some parts of the county are already smoke-free. At the county-owned Pearsall Building in Aberdeen, home to Public Heath and District Court, Brewster installed signs with pictures of babies and cautions in both Spanish and English on the walkway urging visitors to smoke somewhere else.
“What we were finding were that pregnant mothers and mothers with young babies were going through clouds of unhealthy smoke to get into the building,” Brewster said.
But Brewster said that smoking is still allowed in the parking lot and elsewhere on the Aberdeen campus, a policy she would like revisited.
Grays Harbor County was recently named the lead entity for a $292,000 federal grant that will be partially split with Thurston and Lewis counties to push to create smoke-free environments in city parks, on library grounds and government campuses. The community Transformation Grants are spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
In August, the Hoquiam City Council officially adopted a smoking ban in city parks, including Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetery. The council rejected a proposal that would have banned smoking at the City Hall campus. Violators would be subject to a $150 fine under the municipal code change. Smokeless tobacco is still allowed under the new city regulation.
Hoquiam adopted the policy after a recommendation of its Wellness Committee, which is also made up of city employees, similar to the approach happening at the county.
Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney said that there have been no issues or complaints since the smoking ban was put in place. Durney noted compliance has largely been voluntary.
Brewster said that the county issued a $5,000 grant to Hoquiam, which installed signs at its parks using graphics provided by her office.
As it happens, the city of Aberdeen already has a smoking ban in place for its city parks, according to Aberdeen Parks Director Karl Harris. However, it’s simply never been enforced.
Harris said that the city used to have a couple signs up, but they were vandalized and taken down. Harris said that the city has never devoted the funds necessary to put new signs up.
“That’s something maybe we can help with,” Brewster said.