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Coalition honors smoke-free workplaces

August 23, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Sixty-eight Washington County businesses and organizations were recognized Friday morning for having smoke-free workplaces.

The Trans Potomac Prevention Coalition had certificates for all 68, although representatives from only seven attended a recognition breakfast at the Venice Inn.

The recognition breakfast was part of a state-funded awareness campaign the coalition has been promoting for 10 months about the dangers of second-hand smoke, said Don Griffin, program director.

Coalition officials found many places were already smoke-free, but encouraged others to join, Griffin said.

Douglas Sowers said he and his wife, Susan, are both nonsmokers so they decided to make their new business office smoke-free when it opened in January.

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Many of the employees of Beaver Creek Construction and Supply work outdoors, where they can smoke, said Sowers, who co-owns the business with his brother. The only smoker who works in the office respects the smoke-free environment, he said.

Sowers said they try to encourage their employees not to smoke by example rather than pointing a finger at them.

David Huntzberry with Longmeadow Eyecare said he made his workplace smoke-free because he finds smoke offensive.

The employees he has had over the years who smoked always went outside to smoke, he said.

"I'm sure patients in a waiting room don't want to be bothered" by smoke, Huntzberry said.

Some people who are bothered by smoke refuse to file official complaints against their employer because they're afraid of repercussions, said Nell Stewart, coordinator of the Washington County Health Department's Stop Smoking Program. The department also received a certificate.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health program would protect them, Stewart said.

Only employees, not customers, can file complaints because it is a labor law and not a consumer protection law, Stewart said.

A 1995 state law restricts smokers in the workplace to a smoking room, health officials said. There are exceptions, such as places that serve liquor, private clubs and workplaces occupied only by family members, officials said.

The coalition has a smoke-free dining guide that can be picked up at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce or a local tourism office.

The coalition, formed three years ago, also operates in Morgan and Berkeley counties in West Virginia, Griffin said.

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