Committee recommends district go smoke-free

A committee struck to decide where the district should go in relation to the smoking bylaw proposed by the Northwestern Health Unit has recommended all municipalities establish such a bylaw.
“Our purpose with this committee is to try and help to get a level playing field with this whole issue, with the understanding the committee has no power to tell the municipalities what to do,” said chair Rick Neilson, who also is a Chapple councillor.
“So after meeting last week, we recommended that municipalities establish a 100 percent smoke-free bylaw. This will go back to the councils, and they’ll decide where to go from there,” he added.
But Neilson reported Chapple council on Tuesday night voted 3-2 against the motion to go 100 percent smoke-free. Alberton council is expected to discuss the issue at its meeting this week.
While in support of the committee’s recommendation, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said Fort Frances isn’t ready to do anything drastic yet.
“We’ll be discussing it at our next meeting, or perhaps the next one after that,” he remarked, adding the health unit’s campaign to make businesses smoke-free already has started a domino effect, whereby local restaurants have started banning smoking all on their own.
Mayor Witherspoon noted the committee’s recommendation has some flexibility, and that municipalities’ bylaws—and the timelines they follow—may not be the same (e.g., some may still allow smoking in bars).
“I applaud the working group,” said Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and medical officer of the Northwestern Health Unit. “They’ve realized this is not an option. It’s a workplace hazard that can be prevented.”
Meanwhile, council agreed to ban smoking in all town-owned buildings in response to a notice from the health unit.
“I think we should take the lead and declare all our buildings smoke-free,” Coun. Struchan Gilson said before council agreed to have a bylaw drawn up to be approved at a future meeting.
“Let’s do it all the way. Vehicles, buildings, everything,” echoed Coun. Dave Bourgeault.
But some details still have to be hammered out, such as when the policy will be implemented.
“I think if this is the way we want to go, we should determine where they can smoke,” said Operations and Facilities manager Pat Hickerson. “I know when I was in B.C., there were staff smoking right outside a cancer ward.
“It doesn’t make good political sense.”
Community Services manager George Bell noted council also will have to consider how the bylaw would apply to the Memorial Sports Centre, which, when hosting a social event, currently allows smoking in one-third of the rented area.
Most town buildings, such as the Civic Centre, Public Works, and water treatment plant, currently have designated areas for employees to smoke.