As on January 1st the Wichita Falls/Wichita County Public Health District is now 100% tobacco free. The ban includes every kind of tobacco including cigarettes, dip and chewing tobacco and restricts their use by employees and visitors anywhere on the property.
Health Director Lou Kreidler said her staff has been working to get city properties and businesses to commit to having a smoke free campus, but earlier this fall realized they themselves hadn't committed to the program. She said, "We had followed the city's smoke free policies but we felt like if we were going to ask those in the community to do this that we needed to set that example."
Wichita Falls is no stranger to smokers. Kreidler said, "When you look at the data and the information we do have a high population of smokers and smoking or tobacco related illnesses within our community."
She approached the City Council on behalf of the district in October about implementing the program, but waited until January 1st to enforce it. She said, "I think anytime you implement a program that infringes on what someone feels is their right, it makes it difficult. That's why we took the amount of time we did, to let them know why we were putting the policy in place."
Kreidler said her district is the first city office to be tobacco free. They plan on evaluating the program and possibly expanding it to other locations. United Regional and North Texas State Hospitals have already committed to the program.