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Commissioners consider smoke-free zone
Fremont County Public Health nursing supervisor Julie Twist and tribal drug court program specialist Brian Enos at a Feb. 20 meeting at Fremont County Library Lander voted on strategies to curb tobacco use. Photo by Eric Blom

Commission considers smoke-free zone near county courthouse

Mar 8, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The proposal would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of the county courthouse.

Fremont County Prevention Community Resources has worked for 11 years to promote smoke-free environments in Fremont County. The organization recently asked the Fremont County Commission for help and planned new efforts with community organizations.

"I am here to make a suggestion for good health, a cleaner healthier Fremont County Government," community prevention professional Theresa Harmati said to county commissioners.

The proposal was to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of the county courthouse or to designate one area on the building's campus for smoking."

Limiting smoking near the courthouse would be a first step towards a smoke-free environment, Harmati said, which would encourage people to quit and discourage youths from starting.

A brochure the organization gave commissioners said smoking hurts employers by decreasing workers" productivity and raising insurance costs.

Harmati said setting a good example for the community's children should also be a priority.

Harmati said she proposed a similar measure to the Commission two years ago but the county board took no action.

This time, she received a warmer response.

Chairman Doug Thompson questioned whether smokers approaching the courthouse would throw their butts on the ground by doors if ashtrays were not right next to them.

Harmati said with time, tobacco users would learn to put their cigarettes out early, at sites 25 feet away.

Some commissioners at the March 5 meeting showed reservations about a permanent no-smoking zone, but the county board asked building maintenance supervisor J.R. Oakley to move cigarette butt receptacles out away from the courthouse doors for a few days to see how the public would respond.

"I agree that we can't control, necessarily, what the public does, but it's trying to send a positive message that we don't want smoking in the building," Whiteman said.

An 11-year campaign

Harmati said other public spaces are moving to become smoke free. She said smoking is prohibited in buildings and stands at the Fremont County Fair, and on Central Wyoming College's campus, smoking is not allowed within 30 feet of buildings.

She also pointed to businesses that prohibit smoking around the county. Nearly 100 percent of the restaurants and bars in the county seat are smoke-free, she said.

Harmati said her group has worked for 11 years to educate business-owners about changing to smoke free environments, and it has had success. Fremont County Prevention's original smoke-free guide listed about 12 businesses, she said, but their current version is three pages long.

"'the majority of people really do enjoy smoke free environments," Harmati said.

The guide lists 39 Riverton restaurants that prohibit smoking but only two bars. Lander has 30 restaurants and four bars listed.

Eighteen Dubois establishments are on the list, as are three in Atlantic City, two in Pavillion and one in" Ethete, Hudson and Shoshoni.

Thompson asked how local stop-smoking efforts have differed from a recently unpopular campaign in Natrona County.

"We've done it in this county through education " not through an ordinance where it was something they were made to do," Harmati replied.

'this is something I am quite proud of."

"I think what you've said is probably the key," Thompson said. "It's education and choice rather than regulation."

Fremont County could be in store for further campaigns to reduce smoking.

The local prevention organization gathered with the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming and other community groups Feb. 20 in a the Fremont County Library Lander meeting room to plan future efforts to curb tobacco use in Fremont County.

PMOW technical assistance provide Mike Vercauteren echoed Harmati saying smoke free environments are an effective means.

"If you take away the places they can smoke, they're more likely to quit," he said. 'that's it in a nutshell."

Vercauteren added that tobacco taxes and access to help in quitting are also important.

Then he led attendees in a brainstorming session for strategies their organizations can use to decrease smoking locally and wrote their ideas on a whiteboard.

Tribal drug court program specialist Brain Enos said the tribal Joint Business Council approved a proposal to make all of its facilities free of commercial tobacco smoke. Traditional and ceremonial uses are still allowed.

Enos is also involved in a study investigating the success of two cessation education programs among native people, he said.

Finally, he said his group is planning to go to the Joint Business Council with a proposal for a tobacco tax on the reservation.

Afterward, attendees voted on the strategies. Popular strategies were a tobacco tax, a campaign in Riverton to ask businesses to go smoke-free, and a media campaign.

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