Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2001

Survey examines smoking habits

June 28, 2001

They may not scrounge around the break room or the back door counting cigarette butts or ask to smell employees breath, but the Douglas County Community Health Improvement Project wants to know whether and how often employers are letting their workers smoke.

CHIP randomly selected 400 small businesses from Eudora, Baldwin, Lawrence and Lecompton to participate in the survey, in addition to all area businesses with more than 100 employees.

CHIP will use the survey's results to form a comprehensive tobacco prevention policy for the county, Susan Baker Anderson, coordinator, said.

"We really don't know what we're going to do with the information," she said. "We have to analyze the data."

Whether or not the city has a smoking ordinance affects business policy, Anderson said.

Looking at David Miller's desk, it's pretty obvious how the Miller Agency feels about smoking in the office, 711 Main Street. A small, metal plaque mounted on a wood wedge proclaims "No smoking, please," with the trademark burning cigarette, encircled and crossed out by a thick red line.

Although no one working at the business smokes, Miller said he asks anyone who walks through the door, customer or otherwise, not to smoke.

Across the street, Dan Strimple gets paid to smoke meat, that is.

But Strimple, co-owner of Cutter's Smokehouse and Pub, allows cigarette smoking by patrons as well as employees.

Employees can't smoke in the kitchen or stop for a smoke break if the restaurant is busy, he said.

The lenient policy makes employee Tracy McAlexander happy. As a smoker, she enjoys being able to smoke in the building when she's not busy bartending, waiting tables or doing other odd jobs around the restaurant.

"I worked for a temp service in Lawrence," she said. "A lot of them had a smoking area outside, but if you're on the third floor of the city building and you have to take the elevator down every time, it's not very convenient."

The survey should be complete by the end of June, and CHIP will follow up with a public opinion survey about smoking in public in September.

Anderson said CHIP chose to focus on tobacco use because Healthy People 2010, a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative, identified it as one of the top 10 health issues in the nation along with obesity, immunization and health care access.

CHIP's main concern is with public smoking and second-hand smoke. Unless children are with them, the project isn't as concerned with smokers lighting up at home or in their cars.

"I don't think that is so much an issue," Anderson said.

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