Cleveland Proposes More Tobacco Retrictions

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Cleveland's City Council will soon begin debating two resolutions that would tightly restrict the use of tobacco products. One proposal would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The other says the city will "strive for a tobacco free workforce" by 2017, hiring only tobacco-free workers and offering cessation programs to current workers who smoke.

The initiatives are coming out of the city's clean air committee and lead by Mayor Frank Jackson, according to City Councilman Joe Cimperman.

Cimperman leads the city's health committee, which introduced the resolutions earlier this summer. The law department is reviewing them now and hearings may begin as early as October.

The goal, he says, is for a healthy Cleveland.

"Let's be honest about it. There are people dying unnecessarily silent, horrific deaths because they got addicted to smoking," Cimperman says.

Still, the proposals are expected to be controversial. The move to make the city's more than 6,800 employees tobacco-free by 2017 may face particular opposition. Locally, the Cleveland Clinic and Bay Village have instituted such policies.

Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute says "employers have no business telling employees what they can and can't do in their own homes, it's just plain wrong."

Even more, a ban on smokers could lead to other restrictions, he says.

"Everybody does something in their private life that affects their health care costs. If it isn't smoking, it's drinking, junk food or if neither of those, your hobbies. Do you ride a motorcycle, do you ski, do you scuba dive? Once employees get into the business of controlling private behavior because it affects health care costs, there's no private life left," Maltby says.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect smokers' rights, Maltby says. Ohio isn't one of them.
Story by Sarah Jane Tribble

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