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Work on Pasco's policy toward hiring smokers smolders

Banning the hiring of smokers was so hot, it needed to be discussed at two straight Pasco County Commission meetings this spring.

Since then, the efforts to produce a policy have been left like an unattended cigarette.

"We've gotten distracted doing other things," said Commissioner Michael Cox, the top advocate for a new policy.

At Cox's urging, the commission directed county staff at a May 27 meeting to research the topic and bring back a proposal for the board to review. The Health Department added a supportive presentation two weeks later, arguing the health and work productivity benefits of not smoking.

Since then, the board has adopted a $980-million budget without much hoo-ha. New development codes have been discussed. There's been the usual array of projects and other spending decisions, such as a new regional hurricane shelter.

And there's the election Nov. 4.

This spring, Cox argued that not hiring any more smokers would create a healthier workforce. Area sheriff's agencies already have policies against hiring smokers. Plus, he said the county could save money on health insurance premiums and costs for care — although health insurance companies and sheriff's offices told the Times they couldn't pinpoint actual savings under such policies.

In May, other commissioners nodded in agreement to pursue such a policy. The idea then nodded off.

County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said in an e-mail this week his office wasn't involved because it was an issue for the county administration or personnel office to develop as policy.

Personnel director Barbara DeSimone initially said the board hadn't given any direction after the June 10 meeting. Her department, which oversees insurance issues, has not worked on it, she said. After being asked about the board's request in May for research, she said she would look into what had happened.

"I'm not sure who they asked," she said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

Work on Pasco's policy toward hiring smokers smolders 10/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 20, 2008 5:48pm]
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