PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the area’s largest health employer with more than 60,000 employees.

The medical provider says they don’t care if those workers smoke, but they don’t want them doing it on the job, even during their breaks.

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At most public buildings, smokers have already been banished to the outdoors.

And about six years ago, the area’s dominant health care provider banned smoking on all of their property. Now they’re taking it one step further.

“We’re asking our employees not to smoke during their shift because if they do smoke during their shift, they will naturally bring that smoke into the property, into the services that we are providing,” said Gregory Peaslee, of UPMC.

UPMC argues that if you smoke during your shift, you’ll expose patients – sick people – to the smoke.

“When you smoke, you tend to carry that on you,” said Peaslee. “You have particulates, you have smoke on you. You will exhale smoke for 30 minutes after you smoke.”

But isn’t smoking a legal activity? That’s the argument being made by some.

“I think that you should be able to go have a smoke if you want to,” said one person.

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“It’s their right to smoke,” said another.

“If it doesn’t affect other people, who cares?” added another person.

But UPMC argues it does affect other people, and they don’t expect a legal challenge.

“We do not believe it is a violation of their rights,” said Peaslee. “We are taking this step because we believe it is the most appropriate step.”

UPMC says only about 11 percent of their employees smoke.

The new policy won’t go into effect for a year. Meanwhile, the health care system is offering classes and medication to help their workers kick the habit.

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