Postal Workers Allowed to Smoke in Delivery Trucks
Many surprised that in anti-smoking era, feds make an exception
ANCHORAGE - At a time when so many workplaces are going smoke free it might surprise you to learn there is one large employer that still allows some smoking on the job. It’s the U.S. Postal Service that lets letter carriers to light up in their delivery trucks.
The policy isn’t just for Alaska, it’s nationwide. Mailmen aren’t allowed to smoke in their vehicles while delivering or collecting mail, although they can still smoke on foot. They can smoke while driving to their routes and also on their breaks. The Postal Service says they haven’t had official complaints but customers have called in about stinky mail.
“We have received one or two inquiries if our carriers were allowed to smoke in their vehicles,” said Alaska Postal Marketing Director Blessie Lochmann. “And of course, it’s due to the fact that their mail is smelling some smoke residue smell to it.”
But Jim Raymond, president of the local letter carrier’s union, said he has only had one phone call in the the 30 years he has worked as a postal employee. Raymond said it was from a woman who was sensitive to the smoke she smelled on her mail. He told her there wasn’t much he could do.
“She asked me, can’t they stop that?” said Raymond. “I told her that was way above my pay grade, but she could contact the Postmaster General in Washington D.C. or her congressional folks and they could look into it for her.”
Raymond says the number of letter carriers who smoke has gone way down in recent years, and that, if anything, the rules on smoking have gotten more restrictive. Still, the American Lung Association questions why the Postal Service permits smoking at all.
“Workplace policies aren’t about being anti-smoker,” said the American Lung Association's Alaska director, Marge Stoneking. “They are about being anti-smoking and promoting a tobacco-free lifestyle. A tobacco-free lifestyle is the number one thing you can do to be healthy, and generally we want our workforce to be healthy.”
The Postal Workers' union says the number of members who smoke has dropped considerably over the years and that smokers are definitely in the minority. The U.S. Postal Service also offers classes to those who want to quit, as does the American Lung Association.