A study session on a contested ordinance banning smoking near Oakwood Hospital yielded no immediate solutions Thursday night at Dearborn City Hall.
City officials met with representatives from Oakwood, as well as several residents of the neighborhood surrounding the hospital, to discuss concerns that the city ordinance—which prohibits smoking within 100 feet of hospital property—is driving visitors, employees and even patients into neighborhoods to light up a cigarette.
Oakwood Healthcare enacted a no-smoking policy on all its properties in 2007, and does not hire employees who use tobacco products. However, that doesn't stop any smokers who were employees before that time—as well as visitors and patients—from partaking in the habit.
Oakwood's policy used to mean that smokers took their habit to Oakwood Boulevard, which is what prompted the 100-foot ordinance.
Hospital security personnel have since issue dozens of tickets to violators, including 27 just in January. Most tickets are written to visitors.
But some residents maintain that the 100-foot ordinance is still driving smokers into their neighborhoods—which Council members said was cause enough to put the problem back on Oakwood's shoulders.
"I'm not an advocate of smoking," said Council President Tom Tafelski. "I'm just an advocate of residents in that area who have to deal with (smokers)."
City Council members are concerned that dropping the ordinance would just drive smokers back onto Oakwood Boulevard—which is why they want Oakwood to come up with a solution. Suggestions centered on providing a space on or near the hospital's property where smokers can go.
But "to provide a place for people to smoke, but say, 'We're not going to hire you if you do,'" said Oakwood Director of Security Morris Cotton, would be hypocritical.
"Cancer is the leading cause of death," he commented, explaining that a decision to give smokers a place to go would have to go through hospital administration. "I doubt very seriously that they would have some place on the grounds."
Cotton said that it's possible that people could be encouraged to smoke in their cars, or—if Oakwood purchases the now-vacant church across the street—to find a way for them to smoke there.
Residents of the area suggested that the hospital enact a smoke-free work day—meaning that employees couldn't smoke at all while on the clock, even on breaks.
Any decision needs to come from Oakwood administration.
Councilman Bob Abraham was clear that Oakwood needed to bring a solution to the table.
"Have you met internally about a plan?" he asked Thursday. "I haven't heard anything new tonight ... to help us get closer to some sort of collective action."
Council agreed to table the ordinance until their next council meeting, but warned that they will likely rescind the 100-foot ordinance.
"You guys have really left us with no other option than to rescind the ordinance," Tafelski said.
Cotton assured that efforts would continue to educate employees and enforce smoking rules for visitors, as well as respond to the concerns of residents in the area.
But while the two residents present at the hearing thanked Cotton for his response, they maintained that they want to see the ordinance repealed.
"It's Oakwood's problem," Donna Chaffin said. "They've pushed it onto the residents."