By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — City officials have updated their smoking policy to reflect the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
A proposed updated policy was pushed forward by the Human Resources Committee yesterday in an attempt to add vaping devices, as well as consider adding chewing tobacco to restricted use while on the clock. Currently, city employees, much like any other employees, are permitted to smoke and use tobacco products on their breaks as long as it’s not within 15 feet of city entrances.
While using any type of tobacco products in or around city buildings is not an issue for most employees, it potentially affects city construction workers the most, who work primarily in parks and on city streets.
“Looking at an employee retainment or recruitment, we don’t want to make as many barriers as possible,” said Alderperson Thaddeus Kubisiak. “I worked in the construction industry, and if any particular contract puts a prohibition on say chewing tobacco, you may lose out on a lot of really good talent by doing that.”
Employees will not be able to smoke or vape in city vehicles and equipment, even if on break. While chewing was ultimately allowed, Alderperson Scott Kellogg sees all tobacco use as a health risk that could affect city health benefits.
“There’s 28 cancer causing chemicals in chewing tobacco, where you can get oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay — and we pay health benefits,” said Kellogg. “I’m not one to dictate…but if it can be cancerous and it affects premiums, then I don’t know.”
Members voted to pass the updated policy, which includes the restriction of vaping devices on city property, vehicles, and buildings, but not chewing tobacco. A final decision will be made through common council next week.