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Coastal Voices: Wellness Center’s smoking ban

At its Feb. 15 meeting, the Del Norte Healthcare District, on a unanimous vote, decided to proceed with a non-smoking campus at the Del Norte Community Wellness Center.

The decision followed complaints from providers, clients, visitors and employees of the agencies that occupy the Wellness Center campus. Complaints centered on the secondhand smoke drifting into the building, small fires created when cigarettes were not put out appropriately, clients with respiratory and other diseases being subjected to secondhand smoke and that the Wellness Center should be an example of healthy lifestyle choices.

In December 2010, after receiving a petition signed by a large majority of employees working at the Wellness Center, I was appointed to further investigate the appropriate steps needed to create a non-smoking campus at the Wellness Center.

Discussions with Eugene Suksi at Sutter Coast Hospital, Herrmann Spetzler, CEO of the Open Door Health Network, and Hilda Contreras of the Del Norte Community Health Center ensued. Staff members at the Del Norte Community Health Center who smoke were asked the question: What do you think of a smoking ban on campus? Her are some of the comments I received during the process:

• For it. I’m trying to quit smoking, and this would give me incentive.

• I think it’s BS. What will they take from us next?

• If I eat an extra cookie, why is it your concern?

• Your extra cookie does not drift my way!

• Who is going to police it? How are you going to stop patients from smoking? And if you can’t stop patients from smoking around the building, how fair is that if employees cannot smoke?

• I know they tried banning it at Sutter Coast, and they have not been able to enforce patients not smoking outside of the buildings.

• The ban has not been difficult to enforce; yes, people are still smoking but not where others are affected.

• I understand there is a large pile of cigarette butts near the edge of the campus.

• Visitors have been very cooperative; they understand why the hospital has a non-smoking policy.

Here are the reasons I voted to proceed with the non-smoking campus:

• The Healthcare District must, above all, promote healthy lifestyle choices.

• The Building Healthy Communities effort currently under way in Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Lands has chosen prevention as the most effective strategy to achieve improved community and personal health.

• With the development of the temporary community garden, children’s playground and exercise stations and paths where clinic consumers will be complying with their doctors’ orders, it is imperative that those areas be smoke free.

• Many of the folks using the Del Norte Community Health Center cannot tolerate or be subjected to secondhand smoke.

• I do not support taking anything away from a consenting adult; there are many activities that consenting adults engage in that are not healthy; we do not, however, have the right to force others to engage in our choices.

Smoking cigarettes is a legal activity; programs and assistance for smoking cessation are available to those who would like to quit.

I ask for your support for the Community Wellness Center Campus smoking ban. It will take all of us to make it happen. This is how we build healthy communities!

Clarke Moore is director of the Del Norte Healthcare District.

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