- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Some state of Vermont employees are upset over a plan to end smoking at a Montpelier office complex that is leased from the National Life Group insurance company.

Currently the employees are able to smoke in designated areas outside in the parking garage at the complex, where hundreds of state and National Life employees work, but after July 1, no smoking will be allowed on the campus. Smokers will have to smoke outside about a 100 yards away in a public right of way along the road leading to the office building.

Doug Gibson of the Vermont State Employees Association says the union has filed a grievance with the state over the upcoming smoking ban, arguing that any change in employee working conditions must be negotiated with the union.

“Our grievance reminds that state employees’ terms and conditions of employment, including work rules, are governed by the employees’ bargained contract; not dictated by an entity leasing property to the state,” Gibson said in an emailed comment Thursday.

The goal of the enforcing the smoking ban is to encourage people to quit smoking and be healthier, said National Life spokesman Ross Sneyd.

“As a life insurer, our cause is to protect people’s health,” said Sneyd.

Vermont’s deputy human resources commissioner Tom Cheney said the state would work with employees affected by the upcoming ban.

“The state is a tenant to National Life and we follow the worksite rules set out by our landlord,” Cheney said.

To help people work at the complex quit, National Life sponsored a smoking cessation workshop Thursday. Additional programs will be offered going forward, he said.

“Our job is to support state employees through this transition time,” said Maura O’Brien, the program coordinator for the state’s Live Well Vermont.

Meanwhile, many of the state employees who were using the smoking areas Thursday were upset at the upcoming change.

“I guess the only option we have is to live with it, but we’re not happy about it,” said Roxane Boliver, a 26-year state employee, who was taking a smoking break Thursday in a designated smoking area on the top floor of a parking garage.

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