Sandwich officials tighten restrictions on use of tobacco and vape by city personnel

Sandwich city employees can add vaping and tobacco dip to the list of nicotine products that are off-limits while on the clock.

The City Council on Monday, Sept. 19, updated its city personnel smoking policy to include vaping devices and other smoking paraphernalia while employees are working. The policy update also more clearly defines where and when employees can use them.

While the previous ordinance only prohibited smoking, the amendment specifies, “the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, and other smoking paraphernalia (including vaping devices) is prohibited.”

The amended ordinance prohibits the use of these substances in city buildings, in city vehicles or on city property, except in designated outdoor areas. Illinois passed an indoor smoking ban that took effect in 2008 and prohibits smoking inside most public places.

Council voted 5-2 in favor of the amendment, with Alderman Rich Robinson and Alderwoman Rebecca Johnson voting no. Alderman Bill Littlebrant was absent.

The topic first was introduced in an Aug. 15 Committee of the Whole meeting, when Mayor Todd Latham told council members he had been approached by a superintendent seeking clarity on where and when city personnel can smoke.

Alderwoman Rebecca Johnson said she started smoking because she couldn’t get a break at work, but said she is not in favor of any city employee walking around with a cigarette in their mouth.

“Naturally, I think it should only be on breaks,” Johnson said. “I don’t want people just lighting up to go get a truck. I think that’s a little ridiculous.”

Alderwoman Karsta Erickson suggested the inclusion of vaping devices in the ordinance.

Alderman Rich Robinson said he believes the policy is pretty clear, and if employees are smoking within 15 feet of an entrance, they are in violation of both city policy and state law.

Robinson was not in favor of the amendment, and said he believes a write-up could remedy the problem.

Under the old ordinance, public buildings in Sandwich already were considered to be smoke-free, and smoking has been prohibited in general work areas, areas with visitor access and in city vehicles.

City Attorney Cassandra Gottschalk said that while it is not included in the amendment, state law only permits smoking outdoors at least 15 feet away from entrance doors or paths.

Latham said enforcing the new ordinance will not cost anything besides the addition of cigarette receptacles at the designated areas.