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    Lee sheriff bans new hires who smoke

    ©Associated Press
    October 23, 2002

    FORT MYERS -- Tobacco users need not apply for vacancies in the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

    The department said Monday it will no longer hire deputies who use tobacco. New hires will be required to sign no-tobacco pledges, with violations potentially resulting in termination.

    Current deputies are now also prohibited from using tobacco products while on duty. All sheriff's office buildings in Lee County are already tobacco-free.

    "Over time, the agency will become a totally smoke-free environment," said department chief Dave Bonsall.

    Banning tobacco use cuts down on health care costs, with deputies taking fewer days off and needing less medical care, said Tom Berlinger, a spokesman for the Florida Sheriff's Association.

    Bonsall said Lee Sheriff Rod Shoap enacted the stricter policy out of respect for the public.

    "More and more people had been witnessing deputies smoking and saying that it wasn't appropriate," Bonsall said.

    Palm Beach County enacted a similar policy for its sheriff's deputies last year, and some other Florida law enforcement agencies ban tobacco use by on-duty employees.

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