Smoking banned on all Centre County-owned properties

Smoking and use of all tobacco products will be prohibited on all Centre County-owned and leased properties effective April 1.

That means employees in the courthouse, Willowbank Building, district courts and other offices will have to walk a little farther to light up, but the point of the ban is to encourage them to kick the habit, a commissioner said.

“Other major employers are doing this,” said Chris Exarchos, who voted for the ban when the Board of Commissioners approved it Thursday. “We want to encourage employees to quit smoking and make the resources available for them to quit.”

The ban also applies to visitors, as the steps of the courthouse and nearby benches are popular smoking spots for people during heavy caseload days, such as jury selection.

Employees who are caught will be given warnings and will have to go through a smoking cessation program. Ultimately, repeated warnings could lead to losing one’s job.

The commissioners passed the ban 2-1, with Exarchos and Michael Pipe in favor and Steve Dershem dissenting.

A ban already has been in place for the Centre County Correctional Facility in Benner Township and Centre Crest nursing home in Bellefonte, Exarchos said.

The county government joins some of the largest employers in the county that have taken aim, in some form, at smoking.

In 2012, Mount Nittany Medical Center did away with designated smoking areas and is now a tobacco-free zone.

Staring in January, Penn State will impose a monthly $75 surcharge on any of its employees who use tobacco. Employees were required during the benefits enrollment period to state whether they use tobacco.