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Should town council pass a bylaw to make our community smoke-free? That’s what the Northwestern Health Unit will be asking residents through a petition being mailed out next week.

And there’s no doubt which side of the issue the health unit is on, claiming such a bylaw is needed to protect all workers and the public.

The health problems associated with smoking have long been documented, as is the danger non-smokers—particularly children—face from so-called second-hand smoke.

In fact, a Canadian Press story that appeared in Monday’s Daily Bulletin reported on a $2,500 federal settlement awarded to a convict who had sued for having to endure second-hand smoke in his cell.

Yet, despite the evidence, bylaws that ban smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars, have proven controversial in other cities and towns. In Winnipeg, for instance, some establishments have opted to ban minors from their premises so that smoking customers can still light up inside.

Would such a ban spark similar controversy in Fort Frances, and other district communities? Should it be a blanket ban covering all public places, so simply for restaurants, or just bars? Robin’s Donuts offers a smoke-free environment for customers in its King’s Highway outlet, but should it be forced to follow suit at its downtown location?

And surely other local businesses that cater to a smoking clientele would cry foul and warn of going under.

So what’s the right answer? Is there a happy medium? That’s for you to decide. Take time to read the information the health unit is mailing out and give your input by either filling out the survey card or throwing it away.

You also can have your say by voting in the Times’ weekly Web poll.

Your opinion may well decide whether your council ever considers such a bylaw for your community.

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