FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. -- Smokers who work with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office are ditching the ash trays for nicotine patches.
A new policy has taken effect prohibiting the use of tobacco products while on duty.
"It was a goal from the first day I stepped into office in January," said Sheriff James Manfre of the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
The same policy was implemented during Manfre's first administration from 2001 through 2004.
But in 2005, the policy was amended to include designated smoking areas at their headquarters. Those areas have once again been eliminated.
Deputies are also prohibited from smoking while in uniform.
"Perception is reality. The public wants to believe and should have faith that deputies are in good health and they're utilizing our property effectively," said Manfre.
Manfre says new employees will also have to pass a tobacco test as part of the hiring process.
The new policy is also expected to save on health care costs.
"We have a $60,000 increase in our health costs this year," said Manfre. "Our goal is for next year not to have an increase and possibly have a decrease so we could use those taxpayer dollars for fighting crime."
For current employees who are trying to kick the habit, the county health department is providing them with nicotine patches and other cessation programs.
Disciplinary actions are still under review. For the first offense, the sheriff's office is proposing a verbal reprimand as well as loss of car privileges for five days. If a deputy is caught smoking again, he or she would receive a written reprimand and lose their vehicle for 15 days.