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As editors you have the power of influence

Dear Editor,
Why is it that one has to go a days’ drive to the east to find this kind of thoughtful, well informed support for what your Medical Officer of Health and health unit are doing? As Editors of local newspapers you have it within your power to influence opinion in our communities. Your positive coverage of this story goes a long way to moving the community to acceptance.
Your health unit has begun the process of bringing all the non-compliant businesses into line with the Medical Officer of Health’s requirement for 100% smoke-free. Some time in the foreseeable future we will have a truly “100% smoke-free public and workplace” Kenora-Rainy River District. The longer it takes us to get there, the longer local businesses in each of your communities are faced with an un-level playing field because some businesses are complying while others are not.
Our decision to eliminate the health hazard of second-hand smoke was not a business decision. We can’t decide that we will ignore a health hazard just because it may negatively effect some businesses. However, we did our best to explain to the municipalities and the businesses that a level playing field - i.e. everyone going smoke-free at the same time and all playing by the same rules - would significantly reduce the possibility of any negative business impacts from going smoke-free.
Nonetheless most municipalities refused to use their authority to pass local bylaws and by doing so left their business community to face a compliance process that is regional instead of local. This means that when a business calls to complain about unfair competition from a business down the road we may not get an enforcement officer to their community right away because we are not local to that business. I have taken numerous calls in the last two weeks from business people who are suffering in this current un-level playing field. Aside from feeling bad for their difficulties, I can only point out to them that their municipal council had the opportunity to create the level playing field with local enforcement that businesses need to make this work for them and unfortunately their local municipal council choose not to...and then I remind them that 2003 is an election year.
–Jennifer McKibbon,
Health Promoter
Northwestern Health Unit