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Town council ‘not prepared’ to consider smoking ban

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Town council won’t be passing any bylaws to ban smoking in all workplaces here anytime soon in response to a request by the Fort Frances Heart Health Council, saying the issue is not a municipal one.

“We’re putting it in a box here because the provincial and federal governments won’t do anything about it,” Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

“Why don’t they go straight to the tobacco companies and make cigarettes illegal at the end of the year? There’s too much money in it,” he added.

Mayor Witherspoon noted that without the resources to enforce the bylaw, it’s pointless for municipalities to be responsible.

“I’ve been to Toronto and Vancouver, where [smoking is] banned. You go to restaurants and other public places, and people are still smoking,” he remarked.

“Winnipeg banned it, and then got around it by saying you have to be 18.”

And until any anti-smoking bylaws are enforced at a higher government level, Mayor Witherspoon advised people who are bothered by second-hand smoke to “don’t go where there’s smoke.”

Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who noted the issue will have to be addressed sooner or later, gave a slightly different take on the issue.

“Rather than have a total ban, I would like to see the public’s input, and input from the businesses that will be impacted by this,” he remarked.

He suggested that since the Northwestern Health Unit already has launched a campaign to garner public support for such a bylaw, the town perhaps should have public meetings about it.

He added possible solutions could include glassed-in smoking areas with their own ventilation system.

Coun. Struchan Gilson was the lone councillor who voted against the town’s response to the Heart Health Coalition’s request.

“We’ve discussed this before. But I’m concerned we’re letting this get away from us,” he said. “I think everyone here agrees smoking and second-hand smoke is bad for you.

“I’m concerned we’re not standing up for this. Why don’t we deal with it now?” he added.

The town, as an employer, currently maintains Bylaw No. 36/95, which prohibits employee workplace smoking except for in designated areas. This bylaw is due to be reviewed in July.

Under the new Municipal Act, which comes into effect Jan. 1, 2003, municipalities “may prohibit or regulate the smoking of tobacco in public places and workplaces.”

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