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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Contact:
Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, Thurston County Board of Health Chair at (360) 786-5414
Kateri Wimsett, Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department at (360) 867-2516

Thurston County Properties Going Tobacco Free


OLYMPIA -- Today the Thurston County Board of Commissioners approved a new policy that will ban smoking, e-cigarettes and the use of other tobacco products from county buildings and grounds with few exceptions. The new rules go into effect on January 1, 2014, and all county employees and visitors to county facilities, buildings and campuses will be asked to help keep county properties tobacco-free.

The goal of the new tobacco-free policy is to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for employees and for guests visiting county properties. Commissioners also hope the new policy will encourage employees who do use tobacco to quit the habit.

"We know there's no such thing as a safe amount of secondhand smoke, and this new policy is a tried and tested way of reducing secondhand smoke exposure and making our facilities and campuses safer and healthier for our employees and for the public," said Thurston County Commissioner and Board of Health Chair Karen Valenzuela.

Thurston County is one of several South Sound organizations to go tobacco free. Other government agencies and large employers have adopted similar policies in recent years:
  • Mason County - 2006
  • Capital Medical Center - 2010
  • Providence St. Peter Hospital - 2010
  • Washington State Department of Health - 2010
  • South Puget Sound Community College - 2011

While the new tobacco-free policy was adopted today, Commissioner Valenzuela said choosing January 1, 2014 as the effective date gives the county, employees and guests seven months to make the transition as smooth as possible.

"On our end, it gives us time to incorporate it into our hiring and training procedures, install all of the signs, and make all the other physical changes that are needed at all of our various campuses," said Valenzuela. "For our employees and guests, we hope that the seven-month period is ample time to inform them about the changes that are coming, and that it gives them a golden opportunity to tap into tobacco cessation programs and get the help they need to kick the habit for good."

All county properties and worksites, including wholly-leased properties, will be subject to the new tobacco-free policy. Thurston County parks will not be subject to the new tobacco-free rules.

The county plans to install temporary signs at its facilities and campuses later this summer that will include information on tobacco cessation. Permanent signs will be installed later this fall.

For more information on the county's new tobacco-free policy, go towww.co.thurston.wa.us/ and click on "Thurston County Properties Going Tobacco Free."



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County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3