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In rare case, smoking seen as positive health and safety measure

'On one hand, you've got the second-hand smoke, however, you've also got the safety of the individuals staying there, as well as the safety of the staff members'
2021 11 17 smoking-cigarette-smoke-pexels-pixabay-70088
At the request of the hospital, the City of North Bay's smoking by-law has been amended.

Municipal politicians have heeded the requests of health officials in finding a solution to a unique problem by amending the City of North Bay's smoking by-law.

In the name of health and safety, tobacco smoking will now be permitted within a secure open-air courtyard on the property owned by the North Bay Regional Health Centre at 120 King St. W., the location of the NBRHC Safe Beds and Community Withdrawal Management Services programs. 

According to the associated staff report, contraband items have been smuggled back inside the facility following off-property smoke breaks, "placing staff and patients at risk. There have also been medical incidents in the off-property smoking area, which is distant from the team station and challenging to monitor."

In Council discussion, Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch noted "the parties involved have come together to figure out a balance on health and safety. On one hand, you've got the second-hand smoke, however, you've also got the safety of the individuals staying there, as well as the safety of the staff members."

See related: Smoking section on NBRHC property requires Council intervention

And: Smokers in North Bay getting more reasons to butt out

Ann Loyst, Vice-President, Mental Health and Addictions for NBRHC noted the facility's patients attend on a voluntary basis but smokers must leave the property due to the existing by-law. The amendment allows "our patients a safe, accessible area to utilize smoking privileges without leaving the confines of the facility, thereby reducing their access to contraband and allowing the care team to respond quickly should an incident occur."

The gated outdoor courtyard at the King Street facility is accessed via a common area inside and is within full view of the team station, occupied by crisis workers, nurses and protective services staff. 

"Due to the nature of the programs, all patients require thorough searches of their person and belongings upon admission. The staffing model does not allow for these searches to be conducted each time the patient returns from a smoke break," advised Loyst. "Patients are offered nicotine replacement therapy [but] attempts to limit or eliminate smoking privileges have resulted in escalating patient behaviours and unplanned discharges."

The request by NBRHC was supported by Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico and the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, concluding an exemption for the smoke-free courtyard is the safest for all. Smoking at this location is not prohibited by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act — only by the City of North Bay's Smoking By-law 2012-97.

NBRHC petitioned North Bay City Council to allow the smoking of tobacco on the grounds to "improve the success and quality of care for their inpatients."

Council unanimously resolved to amend the City of North Bay's Smoking By-law No. 2012-97 that would allow smoking in the courtyard of the King Street West hospital property. At the request of NBRHC, all of its properties, including its King Street Campus, were designated as smoke-free when the by-law was passed in 2012.

Although the application from NBRHC focuses on tobacco use, the by-law definition of "'smoke' or 'smoking' includes the holding, inhaling or exhaling from a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, water pipe or hookah, or activated electronic cigarette, regardless of whether the device contains nicotine, tobacco, or medical or recreational cannabis, but does not include smoke or smoking where smoke or smoking is used in a stage production of a theatrical performance."

Coun. Ed Valenti added to the discussion, observing the local smoking by-law legislation needs to be "cleaned up."

Valenti gave examples at St. Joseph–Scollard Hall and the North Bay Regional Health Centre proper in which banning smoking had created new problems in new places related to smokers and smoking.

"I recognize we don't want to advocate for smoking," noted Valenti, "however, I do believe it creates collateral issues when you attempt to ban or legislate out something like smoking."

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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