Ms. Stainke was referring to Peter Sarsfield, the medical officer of health who imposed the workplace smoking ban, which includes bingo halls, bowling alleys, bars and restaurants.
But Pete Sarsfield
simply is doing a necessary job that politicians "wimped out" of doing.Beginning today, there is a ban on smoking in Northwestern Ontario workplaces, ordered by Dr. Sarsfield, the medical officer of health.
"This is not so much an antismoking campaign or crusade, as it's been called," said Dr. Sarsfield
."It's against second-hand smoke. . . . I will fight against you having the right to smoke into someone else's lungs."
In Ontario, medical officers of health typically aim their sights at specific hazards, such as asbestos-lined offices, dirty diners and mould growing in schools.But Dr. Sarsfield
said that medical officers are obliged to use their office against a more pervasive public-health threat -- second-hand smoke.His
decree goes further than the bylaws politicians put in place elsewhere in Ontario.In his
region, smoking is banned in all workplaces, including bingo halls, bowling alleys, bars and restaurants.
However, some question the ban's legitimacy, because Dr. Sarsfield
is an unelected official.
stand has brought many compliments, but he
acknowledged that he
is unpopular with some people.At Kenora intersections, he
said, drivers have given him the finger and shouted that they want to run him down.
"You're what I fought against in Europe," a smoker told him.His
boss, the province's Chief Medical Officer, told Dr. Sarsfield
that while he
point, health-protection laws should not be used to set social policy.
But the Kenora
doctor is sticking to his
guns, saying public-health laws empower -- and oblige -- him to issue the ban.Dr. Sarsfield
argued that he
had no choice, given that a clear and present danger persisted amid political buck-passing and vote-seeking.
The area falling under his
responsibility incorporates 19 cities dispersed across a huge area in westernmost Ontario.
For years he
"badgered" municipal politicians for tough antismoking bylaws, Dr. Sarsfield
said.But little happened.He
complained that the province "wimped out" long ago by allowing municipal governments to decide antismoking measures.He
said that most politicians in Northwestern Ontario are unwilling to pass bylaws that could hurt businesses or cost votes.
Nearly everyone in the area expects that fines will be vigorously appealed; the courts likely will have to decide whether a medical officer of health can ban workplace smoking.Dr. Sarsfield
said bans similar to his
should exist across Canada and that higher levels of government should do more.
"I think the provincial government, the Ministry of Health, Workers Compensation and the Ministry of Labour are all being negligent in not taking action," Dr. Sarsfield
said, adding that because it took him so long to issue the ban, "I could be accused of being negligent, too."