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Who doesn’t get it?

Dear sir:

After reading Dr. Sarsfield’s rant in the March 20 issue of the Times, I felt compelled, once again, to weigh in and voice an opinion on the smoking/non-smoking debate raging in Fort Frances.

The first question that came to my mind after reading the article was “Who Doesn’t Get It?”—Dr. Sarsfield or Fort Frances town council.

I found Dr. Sarsfield’s comments to be arrogant and somewhat dictatorial. While I have in the past had many occassions to disagree with the town council, I must commend them on “getting it” this time.

It is their responsibility to consult the public on issues that impact on the economic and social life of the community, and the possibility of a smoking ban certainly is such an issue.

They are elected officials and in a democracy, it is essential that the community be allowed to present their views to the council for consideration.

Dr. Sarsfield doesn’t get it. He is not the town council, nor should he be permitted to usurp their authority and short curcuit their responsibility to consult the community. The May 31 deadline was arbitrarily chosen by Dr. Sarsfield and if the council feels it needs more time, so be it.

In my previous letter, I argued there are other factors that compete on an equal footing with smoking as health risks in Fort Frances. Dr. Sarsfield’s comment—“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”—is narrow at best.

There are other cancer-causing substances, such as pollutants from the mill or pesticides, which are unavoidable in the community that he is not addressing (entering a smoking establishment is, in most cases, avoidable).

A recent study by the RAND Corp. states the single-greatest health risk facing North Americans is obesity. But I don’t see Dr. Sarsfield trying to close down McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, or Robin’s Donuts.

Perhaps he should ask that a community exercise plan be put in place or that anyone deemed obese be fined. Maybe the police should ticket cars with single occupants in an effort to reduce air pollution caused by car exhaust.

Forgive my sarcasm but these points need to be raised. Dr. Sarsfield has, judging by the tone of his recent comments, made banning smoking in Fort Frances his personal mission regardless of the views of the community and the authorities of the town council.

I would like to reiterate, smoking can be—and should be—banned in public places such as hospitals or government offices. Buildings that are truly “"public,” as in publicly-funded.

Bar and restaurant owners should be allowed to run their businesses as they see fit. If a non-smoking establishment will be more profitable, I am sure many owners will open non-smoking establishments to accommodate the demand.

I personally feel that, in a perfect world, smoking should be eliminated totally, but it is not a perfect world and we must work within the limits of the possible. It is a democracy and the citizens of Fort Frances have been presented with an opportunity to exercise their democratic voice.

Town council is doing the right thing and the community should support their efforts by attending the meetings and openly discussing this important issue.


Kirsten Gunderson

Ottawa, Ont.

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