Kick the habit of breaking the rules

By Frank Lewis

August 13, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

I recently wrote a column about how the city of Portsmouth is going after people for not taking care of their property, and yet the city itself doesn’t take care of its property such as Adelphia, The Babcock building, Marting’s, the Naval Reserve property, etc.

It was also written that it is evidently accepted practice that city employees are allowed to take home equipment paid for by taxpayers and use it on their private property.

Now, after watching another scenario for months, it is time to call your attention to another case of the city not obeying its own rules. Outside of the side entrance to the city building is a sign that says “no smoking in this area.” That is the area chosen by city employees to smoke all day long. They actually sit right next to the sign and smoke.

In front of the building there is a sign that reads - “No smoking in front of building.” That area is also a place city employees go to smoke. Now, I go to the city building on Monday morning, and all of the people working off their time from court cases are also sitting and smoking next to the “no smoking in this area” sign.

I don’t know if you have ever thought about this, but some of these people (employees) take multiple breaks throughout the day. If someone takes six breaks — and for a smoker, that is being conservative — at 15 minutes per break, that is one hour and a half out of an eight hour day. I did the math, and using that conservative figure, that person wastes 391.5 hours per year.

That is why so many companies, including hospitals, are not hiring smokers. Here’s the cause and effect - loss of productive time, and increases in health insurance costs.

Personally I don’t care if people smoke. But, as a taxpayer in a town with a deficit budget, I am put out by having to pay multiple people who just walk off the job for 15 minutes, several times a day, then, sit down next to the “no smoking in this area” area and smoke.

Now, here is something predictable. The people who partake in this behavior will be angry with me. As a news reporter, I am used to people wanting to kill the messenger instead of looking into the message, and this will be one more example of that. These are the same people who get upset with the police for pulling them over when they are speeding.

It is time that these people are held as accountable as we are. If I break the law, I will most likely be held accountable. These people blatantly break the law every day and no one holds them accountable.

According to the American Lung Association, smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker. That was 10 years ago. Who knows what those figures are today?

The city of Portsmouth employs 263 people, and according to City Auditor Trent Williams, a number that could somewhat be quantified would be at least $20,000 for the average office worker. Some make more, some less. Without knowing how many of those workers are smokers, it is nearly impossible to come to a figure that would show the actual wasted dollars.

Meanwhile, whether it’s not taking care of their property, using property that belongs to the taxpayers, or smoking next to the “no smoking in this area” sign, rules should be obeyed by everyone and it’s time the city was held accountable for something.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.