City of Wilmington employees are smoke free on the clock

Published: Jul. 19, 2014 at 2:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2014 at 10:46 PM EDT
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City of Wilmington employees must now be smoke free at work. (Source: WECT)
City of Wilmington employees must now be smoke free at work. (Source: WECT)
Regina Penna looking up smoking statistics (Source: WECT)
Regina Penna looking up smoking statistics (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - According to a recent study New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick Counties all have the same top five leading causes of death; cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. Research has showed all of these deaths are directly linked to tobacco.

To combat that statistic Penna started a project called 'Project Assist' which has an overall goal to make North Carolinians healthier.

"In North Carolina we spend more than $4 billion on health related costs do to smoking," Penna explained.

To lower that cost, Penna is encouraging local employers to convert to a tobacco free work place.

The first to take a stand is the City of Wilmington, and as of July 1 no employee can smoke, dip, or chew while on the clock.

"So they would have to clock out and leave the premise to go smoke," said Jeanne Sexton, Human Resources Director for New Hanover County. "So that pretty much narrows them down to their lunch break."

Sexton understands this is not an easy task to ask of their employees, and explained this has been something they have building up to for several months.

"We've been working for a year putting on the clinics, offering the medication, and sending out the reminders," Sexton listed off.

Despite the City's help to quit, some employees are still not excited about the new change, but they are determined to help their workers be as healthy as possible.

The City of Wilmington and the New Hanover County Health Department understand this is not going to be a quick fix. They encourage their workers, or anyone trying to quit, contacting the NC Quit Line. That number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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