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Dearborn Looks to End Ordinance Driving Smokers Into Neighborhoods Near Hospital

The ordinance requires people to be 100 feet away from Oakwood Hospital when they smoke, which residents say has brought smokers right to their doorsteps.

Dearborn City Council took steps this week toward repealing an ordinance aimed at stopping smokers from lighting up in front of Oakwood Hospital.

The ordinance, approved in January under the offenses chapter of the city code, added hospitals to the list of places in which smokers had to be at least 100 feet away before they could partake. It was enacted after Oakwood—which has its own no-smoking policy on the campus—came to the city asking for help in getting hospital staff and visitors off of Oakwood Boulevard when they chose to smoke.

However, the ordinance had an unintended consequence.

According to residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital, hospital staff and visitors began taking their habit to their doorsteps—literally.

Donna Chaffin, a resident of Venice Street, came before council last Thursday on behalf of her neighborhood. She told council that cigarette butts littered her neighborhood; staff and visitors would sit on the front porches of homes and smoke; ambulance drivers would park their vehicle along the street for a smoke break before returning to the hospital.

“It’s a very bad security issue,” she said on Tuesday. “We’d look out the door and there’s someone standing on the porch.”

"It's Oakwood's problem—not ours," she added.

Oakwood Director of Security Morris Cotton also came before council on Tuesday, explaining that the ordinance—which allows for a $50 fine against violators—came to be in an effort by the hospital to get smokers off of the sidewalks in front of the hospital.

“We’re trying to continue to be good neighbors,” he said, adding that the ordinance has greatly reduced instances of smoking on Oakwood Boulevard.

“We’ve issued over 100 tickets for smoking violators,” Cotton said. “As a result of the tickets being issued, we’ve noticed a major reduction of people smoking on Oakwood.”

But council, which held a first reading of a resolution to redact the ordinance, agreed that the solution for Oakwood was a big problem for residents.

“You’ve done a tremendous job in pushing it off of Oakwood,” Councilman David Bazzy said, adding that it was at the expense of neighborhoods. “These are your visitors and your employees. This problem has manifested itself in the neighborhood and this can’t happen.

“You’re part of the community, and you’re not being good neighbors now.”

Council President Tom Tafelski added that in addition to Chaffin’s public appearance on the issue, council has received numerous complaints about the issue from residents of the area.

“You would not want to live on some of the streets where this is going on,” he said. “It’s gotten out of control."

“It was a good idea when we initially implemented it,” he added, “however the unforeseen consequences and lack of communication is why we’re here now.”

Council agreed to hold a study session on the issue in order to come up with a solution that works for both Oakwood and residents of the area. The date for that session has not been set.

The second reading of the motion to repeal the ordinance would come before council again Dec. 18, at which time they could approve or deny it.

cheryl December 06, 2012 at 01:27 PM
"Unforeseen consequences." Really. Any person with half a brain could have seen this coming. The PR wizards at Oakwood (because that's all this is, a PR stunt, since you can still smoke, just not on Oakwood property--our office building has the same policy, people just sneak off under the trees on the property lines) should have anticipated this...and I'm sure they did and didn't care. It's a mess. You have people in wheelchairs, bathrobes and hooked up to oxygen tanks smoking, even in the church parking lot WHEN CHURCH IS GOING ON. Lovely. Oakwood, just section off a part of your back parking lot and call it the smoking section and that would go a long way toward fixing this.
cheryl December 06, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Oh, and I live on Hollywood, right by the hospital, so this is an informed opinion. I yell at people all the time for dropping butts in our yards. But I don't live close enough for them to lurk on my porch. I feel really sorry for those folks.
Pam December 06, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Who voted for this ordinance? Can't these council people exercise independent thought, and not act as stooges for Oakwood Hospital? Oakwood can deal with the problems created by its own invitees and patrons, and not foist them on the neighborhood.
Lee Jacobsen December 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Perhaps Oakwood hospital should only hire non-smokers, Oakwood hospital should advise current employees that smoke that they have 3 months to kick the habit, or by not doing so, are willfully asking to be let go by their actions. If Oakwood is generous, they will offer help for folk to quit. After all, most folk realize that smoking is bad for your health, and , that should be obvious for hospital workers who see folk dying everyday due to smoking related causes. If they have to smoke, then perhaps they just have to accept other employment elsewhere. Bottom line, just ban smokers period. Oakwood won't be the first... see here..... http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/story/2012-01-03/health-care-jobs-no-smoking/52394782/1 Harsh? With the govt regulating soft drinks, salt, etc, smoking should be a no brainer. What one does off the Oakwood premises is no one's business. Neighbors at Oakwood should protect their property, why do folk have access to leave cigarette butts?
cheryl December 06, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Gee, Lee...some of us work for a living and can't sit on our porch guarding our property from trespassers and litterers. And have you heard of a sidewalk? That is public property. I have no issue with people walking through my neighborhood smoking...but when they flick their butts onto your lawn, driveway and other private spaces, that is a problem.
Lee Jacobsen December 06, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Cheryl, like you, there is little time for me to guard my property from thoughtless folk who flick cigarette butts into areas other than proper disposal. All I can do is hire non smokers and , when I do find someone flicking a butt the wrong way, warn them the first time and can them the next. If they care so little for their workplace, they can find another place that is not as fussy. Oakwood Hospital can do the same. At the very least, they can put containers out for a place to flick the butts. At the max, they can install high definition cameras, catch the folk in the act, and send them packing. As for the general smoker who does not work at Oakwood, simply a neighbor or visitor to Dearborn, that is your problem, and part of the problem of living in society where we care enough to keep the sidewalks tidy.
Pam December 07, 2012 at 12:10 AM
So you are saying that the city council should pass ordinances to push what a business views as undesirable albeit legal behavior on its premises out into the adjoining residential neighborhoods? From the article and comments it appears that Oakwood employees are the least of the problem. It sounds like the offenders are patients and their visitors.
cheryl December 07, 2012 at 12:52 AM
For those of you who don't live in this neighborhood, it's hard to visualize the problem...but it's a rather large one. No one is saying they mind cleaning up the occasional butt...but this is much more than that and I'm sick of people loitering in front of houses smoking. It's equal employees and visitors, Pam...plenty of folks in scrubs hang around and smoke...it's just a bit more jarring to see people in pajamas, or in wheelchairs or with IV poles or oxygen tanks doing it on public streets.
Pam December 07, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Either way to me it's Oakwood's problem. If employees or anyone else are doing things you don't like on your business' property, call law enforcement to evict the perps. Oakwood didn't want to be bothered so they made the council do it for them, at your neighborhood's expense.
pat clark December 07, 2012 at 02:41 AM
I live in the neighborhood too! I'm a reformed smoker and don't object or give an opionion on anyone's choice to smoke. I think Oakwood's attempt to make their campus smoke free is nothing more than a PR move. I know there is a place for doctors to smoke inside the building. What's that all about? Why not resolve this problem by making the roof of the parking lot (closest to Oakwood) a designated smoking area. Smokers will be out of sight, which should make the PR happy and outdoors not bothering anybody. As far as the butts go on the roof, give the smokers an ashtray. What's the big deal. Geez. Former smoker
Lee Jacobsen December 07, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Pat, sounds like a great idea...how do the neighborhood folk get it into motion? Docs actually smoke? The dumb docs should be smoking on the roof as well. Of course, it is Oakwood's business and problem, all that can be made are suggestions, and enough polite complaints to make them consider the roof solution. Video and pics would underline the situation.
City of Dearborn (Editor) December 07, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Oakwood is a "smoke free facility" and screens for smoking when the hire: http://www.oakwood.org/tobacco-free-hiring. However, this doesn't apply to existing employees. This is also the case at Henry Ford Hospital and Beaumont, but it's a new policy for those hospitals, so I'm not sure if they're running into these same types of problems.
grapenut December 07, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Pat great idea.. I dont see why there is off limit smoking on the hospital property when they have space to designate a place right on their property. I think it very inconsiderate to make the neighborhood take the smokers on. Who would by a house knowing they almost camp out in your front yard to smoke? I live down 3blocks from the hospital and although we dont have quite the problem as north of snow has, I still have to drive by these people and it stinks/health hazzard /and just plain ugly to see. Some even sit on the curb...... now if we had adolecents sitting on the curb we would have a problem but bc they smoke and are usually adult its ok? The freedom of smoking takes freedom from others although the smokers have their freedom taken and can't smoke where ever they feel like ,smokers try to keep some freedom (smoking on street) and they just don't care if they litter or look really really bad. There is a huge problem at the gate opening from the back parking lot to Snow street also... tree hide them a bit but the loitering and the smell/mess/noise effect about 3-5 house on a regular basis
Paula Rivera-Kerr December 10, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I work at Oakwood and I have been following this story in all of the local papers and reading the comments and would like to respond to some of the questions and concerns you've expressed. In 2007, Oakwood Healthcare System joined many other state and national health care providers in becoming a tobacco-free environment, meaning all Oakwood buildings and outside locations – including parking areas and personal vehicles – are tobacco-free. As a long-standing member of the community, we want to ensure our employees, patients and visitors work and receive medical care in a healthier, safer environment. I can assure you that there is not a special location for physicians to smoke or use tobacco on campus. We understand smoking and the use of tobacco is a lifestyle choice and, while we have made every effort to discourage people from doing so on or near the facility, we recognize that some have chosen to venture beyond hospital property in order to satisfy their needs. Oakwood representatives have worked very closely with the City and the Police Department to help enforce smoking cessation ordinances. To date, Oakwood security personnel have issued more than 100 citations to both visitors and employees. We will continue to cooperate with the City and the neighborhood association to provide education about our tobacco-free environment and the city ordinance. Email me at riverap@oakwood,org if you have any additional questions/concerns I can help address.
cheryl December 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
That was a lovely PR statement, Paula. It addressed nothing. As did the ordinance in the first place. It's this kind of verbal pablum that Oakwood always spouts whenever there is an issue. Citations don't work. Your idea of cooperation is to continue to issue these "water is wet" PR releases.
Lee Jacobsen December 10, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Paula, to follow up cheryl's statement, is the roof idea in the cards, or impractical? After all, smokers desperate enough to venture out in gowns, oxygen tanks etc might also see the roof as an opportunity for ending their habit for good, perhaps not a good idea , but , in the spirit of the Darwin Awards, an improvement in the human gene pool. Here is a link, for those interested. This is a Darwin award smoker at a hospital who, thru his actions, met all the qualifications..... http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2006-06.html
Dalla January 22, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Have you seen their "PR" materials they adopted? The policy "To foster a healthier workforce as well as demonstrate to our patients and the COMMUNITY our strong commitment to health and wellness." Oakwood, you have no regard for the community as evidenced by your lack of willingness to send anyone of any stature in the hospital to work with the council. The neighbors have been enduring this problem since 2007. What is the real reason they won't designate an area on the grounds.....sounds to me like their must be some big $$$$$ at stake somewhere. Oakwood is just bullying their neighbors and they have no idea what a huge PR nightmare this will become if they don't do something to get the smokers off the streets!
Dalla January 22, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Yes Oakwood did adopt this policy in 2007 and the neighborhood has been trying to get the hospital to listen to ever since then. Of course there is no special location on the campus for doctors to smoke - it is better to send them off into the streets and the school and church parking lots with the other employees and visitors - much better for PR! Yes, tobacco use is a lifestyle choice and your hospital should not be so naive to think you are going to miraculously change the lives of your employees and VISITORS. You should be embarrassed to have given the enforcement of your policy to your security staff - I have heard some of the verbal abuse they have taken from the people they have issued citations to and I really feel for the officers. If you really cared about the well being of your employees and community you would adopt a Smoke Free Workday Policy - you come to work smelling like smoke you lose your job. I guess that would only work if your hospital has the guts to enfore the policy. From what I have seen no one in that hospital has the guts to do the right thing.
Lee Jacobsen January 22, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Dalla, I support your smoke free work day policy, that should be a 'no brainer' in a hospital! At my plant, we offer to pay for the cost to quit smoking, give me the receipt, show up not smelling like an ashtray, and you are reimbursed. An alternative to the neighborhood is a designated area on the roof. It has access via the stairs or elevator, and the butts would be on the hospital grounds, not the sidewalks.
Linda Scharf Brazier February 09, 2013 at 05:04 PM
I live on venice right next to the ER.....and if you ask me if this is the only issue that is plaqueing our neighborhood ...no way ...every since Oakwood Took on Detroit EMS runs .....they are bringing in Trash to the ER from Detroit .......with people coming out of a DRUNK and or a Drug state...they then release them into the neighborhood .......I have called on this issue for along time now .....Not only are they smoking they are on my Grass and on my porch or just standing in front of my house ......by the time you call the police and or Oakwood sec ..they have already moved up the street ....look tell me where this is fair for my 6yr old Granddaughter who enjoys riding her bike up and down the sidewalk and plays in her Barbie Doll house in the drive way in the spring and summer time ...I feel when I look outside I am living next to the DMC in Detroit ...watching a Drunk homeless man who smells and is half dressed is just wrong is many ways...and yes this has happened like 5 times that I have seen ....not sure how many are happening I havent seen...but then when the Oakwood sec told me the reason ..I was shocked .........its the detroit EMS runs that are being brought into Oakwood.......and then when they are released from the ER ...its not their job to baby sit these people ...once they leave the ER thats that
Linda Scharf Brazier February 13, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Oh yeh do we see the wheel chairs and pajama's and IV poles alot too ......again I live on venice and right by the ER omg seeing that just looks so bad .........my granddaughter makes funny comments all the time now and she is only 6 yrs old

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