BLOOMINGTON — The McLean County Health Department campus will become smoke-free on Wednesday and county leaders will watch results to determine whether to halt smoking on campuses of all county government buildings.
“We are the first step,” said health department Director Walt Howe.
The department’s building at 200 W. Front St. includes agencies beyond the health department and has been smoke-free for several years, which has meant no smoking inside and outside within 15 feet of an entrance, Howe said.
Enacting a smoking ban on the entire health department property — including the parking lot — follows moves to smoke-free campuses by both Bloomington-Normal hospitals and State Farm Insurance Cos.
The health department move — which was approved by the county board and the county board of health — took longer because county leaders believe the health department’s approach may be used later as a model for other county properties, Howe said.
Because county properties draw a cross-section of the population, county leaders want to make sure that any initiative would be done properly.
“The health department decided to take the lead” because its clients include pregnant women and children, who are more susceptible to dangers of secondhand smoke, Howe said.
“We don’t have that many employees in this building who smoke,” said health promotions specialist Jackie Lanier. “We do have some clients who smoke. We want a healthy environment and one way to do that is to have a smoke-free campus.”
The department is not planning to punish smokers but will remind them of the ban, Howe said. In several months, he will report to the board of health and the county board property committee.
The smoke-free campus is among health department wellness initiatives approved by county leaders. Others are a move to healthier choices in vending machines and at employee meetings and events where food is served and a campaign to encourage use of stairs rather than elevators.