Sometimes you can make a decision for a lot of the right reasons, and it still ends up being the wrong decision.
The Sunrise Health Region Board finds itself in exactly that situation with its property wide ban on smoking for staff, and in the case of the Yorkton Regional Health Centre patients.
It’s pretty easy to see the moral high ground the Board is ensconced in on this issue.
There are books full of data showing that smoking is bad for our health, not only for the smoker themselves, but just perhaps even more dangerous for those inhaling second-hand smoke.
Yes we can likely all trot out some cousin or uncle who started smoking when they were 15 and lived to be 90-plus, but there are also those who live through accidents they reasonably shouldn’t. In the end we can start this discussion from the premise smoking is bad for you.
You may make an equally compelling argument about the dangers of eating junk foods and becoming obese, or how the bell curve of benefits declines sharply once you hit two or more alcoholic drinks a day.
But alcohol, junk foods and yes tobacco products all remain legal too.
The government has banned a number of dangerous goods out right, asbestos insulation, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids, for example in transformers, capacitors, and electric motors, and, DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) an organochlorineinsecticide banned for agricultural use. You will note tobacco products are not on the list.
Which brings us back to the health region which instituted the ban.
“The health region is committed to healthy public policy for our staff and the residents who use the services provided in the region’s facilities,” Christina Denysek, Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships told Yorkton This Week.
That sounds noble at first blush, but should even a Health Region go beyond the standards set out by provincial and federal statutes?
If the Health Region has such mandates, should visitors be prevented from taking patients unhealthy snacks? That may sound extreme, but one can argue they too are a public health concern.
And does the ban accomplish anything except to inconvenience smokers?
Take staff at the Yorkton & District Nursing Home who had a smoking area outside of the building property, well away from the public eye, or where non-smokers should have had issues. It was a completely reasonable and workable compromise.
The ban now pushes the smokers to the sidewalks where they are in the public eye, in front of impressionable youth, and where passers-by may well inhale second-hand smoke. That would seem to run counter to the Health region’s mandate to create “healthy public policy”, something better maintained by an out-of-sight smoking area.
It is one thing for the Health region to offer programs and support for staff to butt out their last cigarettes, but a property-wide ban makes pariahs of staff who smoke, which at least for now remains a legal activity which consenting adults may choose to do.