Starting this summer, there will be no smoking allowed anywhere on Hennepin County-owned property. Even if you're parked in a county ramp or lot.
On a vote of 6 to 1, the County Board on Tuesday approved a new tobacco-free policy for all county-owned or leased property where the county is the only tenant.
The policy, which would include everything owned by the county except roads and right-of-ways (and a reserved area at Hennepin County Medical Center's psychiatric clinic) has drawn national attention since it was introduced last month.
The lone dissenter was Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who tried unsuccessfully to amend the policy to allow smoking in one's own vehicle while parked on county property.
"Smoking is a really bad choice, it's unhealthy, it kills people ... but I have to believe there's a point in the continuum where government can no longer prevent people from making bad personal choices," Johnson said.
Said Chairman Mike Opat, the measure's sponsor: "Where I would agree with Commissioner Johnson is that people are free to make dumb decisions. But that freedom stops at our property line."
The current policy, which has been in place for three years, bans smoking inside county buildings and within 45 feet of county building entrances. Johnson, a nonsmoker, said the policy is strong enough and only needs to be better enforced.
Opat and other commissioners said that the current policy not only exposes people to second-hand smoke, it also contributes to unsightly litter around entrances.
The new policy will be enforced with signs and simple reminders that smoking isn't permitted on the property.
When Tera King, wellness analyst for Hennepin County's HealthWorks program, said signage estimates ranged from $40,000 to $120,000, Commissioner Jan Callison said, "I'm hoping we're not spending $120,000 to enforce this."
The policy will take effect July 1 at downtown county buildings, Aug. 1 at county libraries, Sept. 1 at suburban county sites and Oct. 1 at county-leased properties.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455