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County tightens rules on smoking

Courthouse campus has specific areas

Spokane County commissioners are making good on a plan that was unveiled last spring to turn most of the Courthouse campus into a smoke-free zone with the exception of six designated smoking areas.

The change takes effect Wednesday, county officials said.

It follows monitoring by the Spokane Regional Health District that found numerous violations of state law governing smoking in public places.

Reaction so far has been mixed among county employees, Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said.

County labor unions had been asked to tell their members about the change.

Until now, smokers were too frequently ignoring the prohibition against lighting up within 25 feet of building entrances. So many cigarette butts were accumulating that the campus was known as a source of free secondhand tobacco that was being harvested and hand-rolled into cigarettes.

Health district staff warned commissioners that four major violations that were discovered during the monitoring could result in fines of thousands of dollars.

They said a major concern was the likelihood that secondhand smoke was entering buildings through doorways from smokers who were lighting up just after exiting the buildings. Passive smoke is considered a health hazard.

The courtyard between the Courthouse and Public Safety Building was a major source of the problem, officials said.

About 19 percent of county employees at the campus are smokers, but members of the public have also been part of the problem.

County commissioners approved the changes in a resolution adopted July 10.

The six designated smoking areas will be on the northwest and southeast sides of the jail, the southeast side of the Public Safety Building, the northwest side of the regional health building, west of the west entrance to the Courthouse and south of the human resources department building.

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