Sarsfield shakes head at responses to smoking bylaw

“I just don’t know what makes these people tick.”
That’s just one of the comments Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and chief medical officer of the Northwestern Health Unit, could say about the fact Fort Frances council has taken the stance it will address the smoking bylaw issue at its own pace, not heeding the May 31 deadline he set to find out various intentions of district municipalities.
“They just don’t seem to be getting it. These are cancer-causing substances. I’ve got the obligation to do something and so do they,” Dr. Sarsfield stressed.
“Enough already with waiting for something to happen. Do something now,” he argued.
Dr. Sarsfield issued an official notice that second-hand smoke was a health hazard in late February, stipulating that municipalities under the Northwestern Health Unit must respond to him by May 31 with their intentions as to what they will do about the hazard (i.e., establish bylaws banning smoking in enclosed public places).
“With the May 31 deadline, I’m saying, ‘I want you to tell me your plans.’ If there are no plans, then I’ll have to do something,” he said.
“But I know, if I were an elected official, I couldn’t sleep with myself knowing I’ve done nothing about this.
“They say ‘Don’t treat us like children! Don’t tell us what to do!’ But that’s exactly what they’re doing when they say that,” Dr. Sarsfield charged.
Dr. Sarsfield was only somewhat encouraged by the fact Fort Frances has agreed to hold its first public meeting on the issue Tuesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Civic Centre.
“It’s a step in the right direction by the Fort Frances council. But what I don’t understand about listening to the public’s opinion is that if the public says allowing smoking in businesses is okay, nothing is done,” he remarked.
“If this is the case, why don’t they hold public meetings about drinking and driving, or speeding through school zones?” he added. “You can’t allow people to vote with their wallets—we wouldn’t do that with drinking and driving, would we?”
About 10 minutes will be allotted for each presentation at the April 2 meeting, said CAO Bill Naturkach.
Those wishing to voice their opinion are requested to register prior to Monday, April 1 by calling clerk Glen Treftlin at 274-5323, ext. 236. Any documents and handouts related to presentations also are to be filed in advance.
The idea to hold public meetings on the smoking bylaw issue first was brought up in January after the health unit launched a postcard campaign to gauge public support for a ban on second-hand smoke in enclosed public places.
In February, Dr. Sarsfield said he’s prepared to take legal action against district municipalities that don’t establish bylaws.