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Brooksville's smoking idea for city workers is intrusive

All morning I was dreaming of a bowl of Mallie Kyla's Swiss potato soup with its flecks of melted butter in a creamy base.

Then I remembered the affidavit I'd signed at my job down at City Hall, the one where I promised to limit my intake of saturated fats. So, I settled for PB & J at the desk.

It's been almost a year since we became an "alcohol-free campus,'' and even though I don't see how this applies to a couple of fingers of Jim Beam in the privacy of my own home, I better start taking herbal tea to bed from now on. Don't want to get fired.

A Snickers bar would be a nice pick-me-up on the way to my appointment, and it's not like I'm driving a city car. Still, I am on city business, and with that new ban on sweets, things could get ugly if the boss found out.

No, working at the city of Brooksville isn't quite this bad yet. But you sometimes get the feeling it's on its way. You've heard of the nanny state. When it comes to its employees, this city is like a nagging parent.

Last year, the City Council passed a dress code that required workers to wear underwear and deodorant, forbade visible tattoos and instituted an ears-only piercing policy.

On Monday, it discussed creating a smoke-free campus, meaning no cigarettes on city property, in city vehicles, or in personal vehicles used for city functions. The draft policy also said new hires must be tobacco-free and that current workers "will have one year from the effective date of this policy to quit.''

Though the idea is not dead, most council members had the good sense to ask for a revised version that isn't quite so intrusive.

I wondered why they were even talking about it.

The old quote (it's from Oliver Wendell Holmes if you, like me, didn't know) about one person's right to swing a fist ending at another person's nose, translates especially well to smoking. Smoking at most workplaces was long ago pushed outside. The fumes don't hit your nose. There's no violation of your right to breathe clean air.

And forcing smokers to huddle among back-entrance loading docks and Dumpsters has already made one part of the proposed ban so clear that there's no need to put it in writing: Smokers, or at least their filthy habit, are no longer wanted.

That's one reason why the ratio of smokers in our county's adult population has fallen to almost exactly that of the council's — one in five. (Only council member Frankie Burnett Jr. identified himself as a smoker.)

Though Mayor Lara Bradburn said she never wants to see a worker fired for smoking off duty, she stood out as the main advocate of the ban, including the prohibition on hiring smokers.

That's the policy at lots of fire departments and law enforcement agencies, she said, including the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Okay, but deputies need to be reasonably fit, while it's difficult to see how that matters when your job is answering the phone at City Hall. Of course, workers' health would be better if they didn't smoke, and Bradburn said the ban would save the city money in reduced health care costs, which is likely true.

But I've also heard that smokers save the public in the long run by shortening their life spans and, therefore, their retirements. And if you can read such grim facts and still not quit, that's your problem.

Brooksville's smoking idea for city workers is intrusive 04/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 8:16pm]
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