The Rice County Board of Commissioners earlier this year voted unanimously in favor of adopting a tobacco free grounds policy. The policy takes effect May 1.

I spoke with Rice County Public Health Educator Tracy Ackman-Shaw today about the policy. It restricts the use of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on county grounds, with the exception of the Rice County fairgrounds, parks and campgrounds.

Ackman-Shaw says, "This policy will help protect all residents of Rice County. By adopting this policy, Rice County is helping reduce the rate of tobacco use in our community."

According to Ackman-Shaw, 5,500 Minnesota adults die each year due to smoking and more than $2 billion in annual health care costs are directly attributable to smoking.

I asked the public health educator how she would respond to a smoker who might say, "I'm a taxpayer and my freedom should not be restricted."

Ackman-Shaw told me, "Smoking is not a right and this policy is not about the smoker. It's about eliminating secondhand smoke for kids and adults alike."

There will be signage reminding people about the tobacco-free grounds.

Rice County Courthouse