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Health unit won’t appeal smoking decision

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The Northwestern Health Unit will not appeal a Feb. 17 decision by the Health Services Review Appeal Board that the health unit does not have the authority to make area businesses “butt out” in the name of public health.

The decision was made Monday afternoon after a unanimous vote by the health unit’s board of directors in favour of a recommendation by Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and medical officer of health of the health unit, to not file an appeal.

Dr. Sarsfield said Tuesday morning that while the health unit’s lawyer said they had legal grounds to appeal the decision, it simply was a matter of the health unit not being able to pay the $100,000 it would cost to do so.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat it. There’s a feeling of loss, bitterness, and disappointment here,” Dr. Sarsfield remarked.

But he added he remains hopeful the province will carry through on its promise to ban smoking in all enclosed public places within the next three years.

The appeal board ruled last month the health unit did not have the authority to ban smoking in enclosed public places as Dr. Sarsfield had proposed to do under Section 13 of the Health Promotion and Protection Act.

Instead, it said the mandate of the medical officer of health—with respect to smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, and the general health concerns associated with them—is to promote smoke-free living through co-operation, education, and assistance in the enforcement of other provincial legislation such as the Tobacco Control Act.

The appeal board did note, however, that Ontario municipalities do have the right to enforce bylaws against smoking in enclosed public places.

(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)

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