By Peter Becker
PIKE COUNTY - Cigarette smoking and all other uses of tobacco have been banned from all property of the County of Pike, Pennsylvania, by action of the Pike County Commissioners, effective March 6th.
The prohibition was encouraged by the Pike County Tobacco Free Coalition, after a county employee came to them for advice. A petition was circulated among county employees to enact the ban, and the Coalition brought it to the attention of the Commissioners.
Enacted as an amendment to the county employee handbook, the prohibition applies to everyone, employees, constituents and visitors to county property- whether it be the Courthouse, County Administration building, other facilities and outdoor areas. Tobacco use has been prohibited from County-owned vehicles and at Pike County-sponsored events.
"Pike County is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace and campus to promote the health and well being of its employees, constituents and visitors," the Commissioner' resolution reads.
All forms of tobacco use have been nixed, except for approved tobacco products used for cessation or for other approved medical purposes. Banned uses include, in part, cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, bidis, snus, dissolvable tobacco products and electronic cigarette cartridges.
Complaints about the application of this policy are to be forwarded to the County Commissioners' Office in writing. The policy states that the complaint will be investigated, and no employee who raised the complaint or made an inquiry shall suffer any retaliation.
Debbie Brodhecker, Community Health Educator with the Pike County Tobacco Free Coalition, said that they are very pleased with the Commissioners' action, and should serve as a good example to young people. Before the policy was adopted, she said at times a visitor entering county property would pass through "a cloud of smoke" where employees and others might gather for a smoke break.
Commissioner Chairman Richard Caridi stated that the County wants to appeal to the public's best interests and their health. He remarked he does not know how people can afford the expense of tobacco products.
Also present at the Commissioners' meeting were several Delaware Valley High School students, who are active in the Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) club. Organized and coordinated by school nurse Ellen Orben, the students visit elementary schools and are starting talks at the Middle School.
Each of the students shared their concerns about smoking and health. David, who said he is a firefighter and EMT, warned that "2nd hand smoke" which clings to your clothes, can be transferred by an adult going home and hugging their children, passing the harmful chemicals to the child's clothing.
Another student, Brianna, noted that 2nd hand smoke is also bad for your pets.
Pike County Tobacco Free Coalition organized in 1999 and is funded by the PA Department of Health. The funds are administered through Penn State Extension in Milford, where the Coalition shares office space.
Brodhecker coordinates tobacco use prevention for children. Also on staff is Deborah Albrecht, who runs tobacco cessation programs for adults. Albrecht told the Commissioners that the new policy is an opportunity for county employees to seek assistance to quit smoking.
Anyone wishing assistance to quit use of tobacco can contact the Pike County Tobacco Free Coalition at (570)296-3400 or visit extension.psu.edu/pike/programs/tobacco-prevention or pikepacessation.blogspot.com.