Smoke-free policy has been in place for years

    Encouraged by City Administrator Shannon Stassen and buoyed by a positive response from City of Crookston employees, the Crookston City Council, at a Ways & Means Committee meeting this week, endorsed a “tobacco-free” policy that goes beyond the current “smoke-free” policy that’s been on the books for many years.

    “This is an opportunity for the City to be a leader in this regard,” Stassen said.

    The change is also spurred by a Polk County Public Health survey that found after seven consecutive years of decline, youth tobacco use is on the rise, due in large part to the explosion in popularity of electronic cigarettes and vaping.

    As was the case with the smoke-free policy, tobacco use won’t be allowed within 25 feet of City buildings, and won’t be allowed in parks. That goes for the general public as well as City employees.

    An added component of the updated policy will be various resources that assist City employees who use tobacco but want to quit. A City employee Safety Committee worked in conjunction with PCPH and a work group tasked with researching updated policy alternatives. A survey of City employees found some that were open to trying to quit their tobacco use, said Kathy Carlson, the point-person for City employees on the push for an updated policy, and also found some City employees were concerned about having to work in close proximity to colleagues who were using tobacco.

    “Our message is not to tell people that they have to quit using tobacco,” Carlson said. “Our message is that we need to provide a healthy working environment to all employees, and also help tobacco users who want to quit.”

    As part of City employees’ health insurance benefits, they’ll have access to phone coaches and other resources, and a “buddy system” could be utilized if a tobacco user doesn’t feel up to going it alone.

    The bigger picture, of course, is how the updated policy impacts the public, whether they’re at Crookston Sports Center, in a City park, or at the softball diamonds. “So when I see someone smoking in a park with their dog, that’s a no-no?” At Large Council Member Bobby Baird wondered.

    It is, he was told. Not only that, if a City employee observes someone using tobacco in violation of the policy, they’re supposed to speak up.

    The full council still needs to approve the updated policy, which, Stassen said, wouldn’t take effect for nine months.