AVCSD directors stumped over chewing tobacco policy

Keeping abreast of the times, American Valley Community Services District (AVCSD) directors spent 20 minutes debating whether chewing tobacco belonged in a no smoking policy or not.

At length, directors sent the item to the personnel committee for further discussion.

Directors seemed to be on the same page when it came to where AVCSD employees and members of the public can smoke cigarettes, (cigars and pipes) and vape. It’s not allowed in any company buildings or vehicle. And there is no smoking within 50 feet of any building, and restricted to specially designated areas.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Director John Kolb referring to widespread no smoking policies other agencies, the county and the state have adopted in recent years.

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Assistant General Manager Mike Green said he is the one who requested that the topic be addressed on the Thursday, Oct. 10, agenda.

Green said he’d found himself the victim of chewing tobacco splatters on floors where he had to work all too often.

Describing scenes in some graphic detail, Green seemed to want to classify chewing tobacco right along with smoking cigarettes and other activities. It’s bad enough when considering some of the things workers at the services district deal with, but adding chewing tobacco to the mix seemed more than he was willing to tolerate.

People spit tobacco on the floor or the ground outside, and some spit it out in wastebaskets and then if something important has to be retrieved, it seems to be all over it, Green said.

General Manager Jim Doohan added that when employees chew in services district vehicles they tend to spit out the window and it gets all over the vehicle. It was apparent he didn’t like that.

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AVCSD already has a no-smoking policy in place, Joanna Gin pointed out. Gin was filling in for regular attorney Josh Nelson who works with Best, Best and Krieger.

That policy can be modified to include chewing tobacco, she said.

Director Mike Beatty asked what the industry standard is? Gin said that it doesn’t appear to be an issue under state law.

Beatty said that if they allow smoking in designated areas only, would that include those people who chew tobacco? That brought up comments about whether the experience could be compared to the length of time it takes to smoke a cigarette. Some chew tobacco almost constantly.

Business Manager Katie Nunn said that smoking isn’t allowed within 50 feet of a district building. Director Bill Martin seemed satisfied with that. But Beatty said that it’s almost impossible to police chewing tobacco. When he was a coach, the athletes weren’t supposed to practice with chew in their mouths. He said he could spend his time checking to see who was violating the policy or get on with the intent of coaching.

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Beatty said it would be the same with district employees. He repeated that there was no way to enforce it.

But Director Darrel Brown disagreed. As a retired CHP officer, Brown believes a rule or law is just that. If someone spits chewing tobacco and it’s observed then they get written up.

Director Kathy Felker was then concerned about the 50 feet minimum requirement for smoking. She said she doesn’t like it when she goes to the courthouse and has to walk through a cloud of smoke produced by employees (or the public) within 50 feet of the front doors.

Director Denney Churchill, who is also the board president, said it was a good starting point for the discussion.

Doohan said that he’s experienced smoking and vaping at the back of some AVCSD buildings. He didn’t say when that occurred.

Felker recommended that designated smoking places be assigned. Doohan recommended that specified butt canisters be in place.

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“A revised policy is a good start,” Churchill explained.

Beatty said directors would look to management to see that the policy is enforced. But Churchill said he didn’t want it to reach a police action stage.

“We’ve flogged this dog for about 20 minutes,” said Churchill. That’s when he recommended the issue be further discussed in the personnel committee.