03/22/04 — Health Board discusses smoking policy

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Health Board discusses smoking policy

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 22, 2004 1:58 PM

The issue of smoking was recently brought before the Wayne County Board of Health, but not to debate its health risks.

Health Director James Roosen said he has received a lot of complaints recently from patients, staff members and visitors to the Health Department who say they are being exposed to smoke as they enter the building.

He said the issue is of particular concern for expectant mothers visiting the prenatal clinic and asked the board to consider having designated smoking and non-smoking areas. He also asked whether it would be more enforceable as a rule or a policy.

"I know it's a complicated issue," he said. "There are state statistics that address smoking in public buildings. Health departments are exempt from some of these."

He said that making a policy does not disregard the rights of smokers and that the tobacco industry is in favor of providing smoking areas. "If we stick with the health issue, we should be okay," he said.

Evelyn Coley, director of nursing, said that something needs to be done because the Health Department is in violation of an agreement with the state.

"In the last audit, the state cited us for exposing women and children to cigarette smoke," she said. "Should they find the same thing next year, we could lose state money."

Roosen said some health departments have banned smoking, but doing so forces employees to leave the grounds to smoke.

"If ever there was an actionable rule, that would be it," he said. "You're basically discriminating against cigarette smokers."

Roosen said the main concern is to prevent exposure to environmental tobacco smoke to non-smokers entering the building.

Dr. Michael Gooden, board member, said he favors having a policy rather than a rule. "Perhaps it's a kinder and gentler way of dealing with this issue," he said. "I would like to see the main entrances be smoke-free."

He said he is a former smoker, but "it's a shame to have to run that gauntlet coming into the building."

Board member Steve Smith said he is also a former smoker and does not think having a policy will be a problem.

"No matter where you go now -- airports, hospitals, shopping centers -- we're all conditioned now that there are smoking areas," he said. "This is not blazing new ground."

Board member Donna Edmundson asked, "Do we as a board have to determine all the micro-managing or can we just determine that there will be no smoking at our entrances and exits and it will be up to the Health Department management to determine those areas?"

It was determined that Roosen and his staff would designate the smoking areas and report back to the board with their findings.