Blue Cross of Kansas to enact tobacco-free workplace

? The state’s largest health insurer — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas — is going smoke-free.

On July 1, the company, which employs 1,450 people in Topeka and 10 field offices, including one in Lawrence, will ban tobacco at its workplaces.

“Implementing a tobacco-free policy sends a strong message that we care about the health and safety of our employees,” said Graham Bailey, vice president of corporate communications and public relations. “We cannot be credible in promoting the importance of health and wellness to our employer groups and members if we are not first willing to tackle the big issues ourselves,” Bailey said.

Use of tobacco products will be banned on any owned or leased company property, in company cars or on company-paid break times.

Previously, employees and visitors had access to outdoor designated smoking areas at each Blue Cross location but as of July 1, those areas no longer will be available. Employees who choose to smoke or use other tobacco products on their lunch break will be required to leave company property.

The company first told its employees of the new policy in December and offered to reimburse employees up to $100 for approved tobacco cessation products such as nicotine gums and patches.