Smokers who work for Spokane County may soon lose their last hazy hideout.
Saying that the smell of stale cigarettes lowers the value of county-owned vehicles, county commissioners want to post no-smoking signs on the dashboards.
“You go to sell them and people go, ‘phew!”’ said Commissioner Kate McCaslin.
Smoking was banned in most county offices in 1988. Most break rooms and restrooms became smoke-free in 1994.
But workers can still smoke while driving county cars, as long as there are no nonsmokers - like any of the three commissioners - along for the ride.
Any policy change will require negotiations with unions.
“I don’t think - and I could be wrong - that this would be a significant issue. We’d have to check with our membership,” said Bill Keenan, Spokane representative for the Washington State Council of City and County Employees.
The issue arose because Commissioner John Roskelley was assigned a county car that stunk so bad, “I finally had to get rid of it.”
Employees also smoke in road graders and other heavy equipment. While the odor may not affect the resale of that equipment, Roskelley and McCaslin want the practice ended.
Smokers can wait until their breaks to light up, said Roskelley. Besides, said McCaslin, “it’s a proven fact that when they’re sitting there smoking, they’re not working as hard as if they’re not smoking.”
Yvonne Bucklin, Spokane regional director for the American Lung Association, said the typical smoker misses more work than a nonsmoker.
But, Bucklin said, she hasn’t heard of any studies that show smokers are less productive while smoking.
“It stands to reason that a cigarette takes a certain amount of attention” and may detract from other chores, she said.