Group wants butts banned on Confederation Hill

Steve Bartlett
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A smoking shelter next to the Department of fisheries building in St. John’s. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The only smoke around Confederation Building would be generated by heated debate, not cigarettes, if an advocacy group has its way.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco (ACT) wants the province to prohibit smoking outside and around the provincial legislature, especially since government entities such as Eastern Health have such bans in place.

“It only makes sense to us that the government should consider … seriously consider, (making) their properties smoke-free,” said Kevin Coady, ACT’s executive director.

“It would support these (entities that have already enacted bans), all these others. They are out there trying to do it on their own.”

Coady made the comments after being asked about smoking shelters on government properties.

Provincial departments and  affiliated agencies haven’t exactly spent cartons of cash on butt huts, an access to information request found. However, followup calls to government departments and other entities revealed some interesting stories behind the handful of smoke houses near government buildings.

The shelter at the Whitbourne Youth Centre is an example. A justice official did some research and found out that in the mid-’90s, inmates built a gazebo as part of a carpentry program. Once it was completed, the options were to tear it down, sell it or find an on-site use. Staff recommended the latter — and it gained new life as a smoking shelter.

Another interesting puff palace was erected at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Burin. Built a few years back by Transportation and Works and a group of women in an introduction to trades program, the intent was to give smokers a place to go and to keep butts away from the entrances. The building eventually became run down and a safety concern.

It was cleaned up and is now the campus recycling depot.

A smoking shed built two years ago at the Petten Building by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA) and the Government Purchasing Agency has interesting origins.

At a cost of $2,800 plus tax and bought through tenders, it was actually recommended by the department’s occupational health and safety committee.

“It supports DFA’s efforts to provide a respectful workplace for all its employees in that it accommodated the needs of employees who smoke, and addressed the potential impact of second-hand smoke on employees who do not smoke,” a spokesman wrote in an email, because Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman was unavailable.

“Smoking is a legal activity, and while DFA supports a healthy lifestyle for its employees, the department must respect an employee’s right to make a decision to smoke.”

The official noted the shelter hasn’t prompted any complaints from employees or the public.

It won’t get any from ACT either. The organization is not adverse to establishing areas so that smokers can be out of the elements.

“We don’t recommend it,” Coady said. “We’re not saying do it, but were not saying, ‘Ridiculous, boys. Tear it down.’ ”

What ACT does recommend are policies declaring properties smoke-free, such is the case at local schools and hospitals.

“Policies like that are about trying to get people to quit, not trying to crucify the smoker,” Coady said.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael doesn’t object to banning smoking on government properties, but she thinks such a policy should be accompanied by programs that help puffers butt out.

“For two reasons,” Michael said. “One, because we know smoking is a very serious addiction, and it’s not something people just easily say, ‘I’m going to give up.’ … Secondly, government makes millions upon million upon millions of dollars from people who smoke, and so if they are gong to make this demand that a place be smoke-free, then I think they have a moral responsibility to make sure they put money into helping people with the cessation of smoking.”

Approached with ACT’s call for a smoke-free Confederation Hill — where many staff currently puff in a fenced area at the back of the building — Premier Kathy Dunderdale appeared torn.

“I’m reluctant to tell people they got to go a half mile away to have a cigarette, but at the same time, I’m just as adamant to say, ‘You’re not smoking on that back step ... or the front step, (because) people going and coming into this building have to walk through your cigarette smoke to get in here, to breathe it.’ I’m not interested that, either. So it’s trying to find a balance,” she said.

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, Whitbourne Youth Centre Government Purchasing Agency

Geographic location: Burin

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Recent comments

  • Non-Smoker
    October 24, 2011 - 09:33

    The argument that smoking is legal is silly. It's about what's appropriate at work, not what's legal. Sex between consenting adults is legal, but I don't see anyone providing people with a bedroom at their workplace. Gambling is legal, but I don't see slot machines in the lunch room. If smokers need a place to smoke, they should go do it in their cars, or put up with the weather.

  • J
    October 23, 2011 - 23:01

    WillyB: Ever hear of second hand smoke? It's not like what you breathe it--it's the unfiltered leftover crap that your body DOESN'T retain and someone else has to deal with then, so it's not just YOUR business to smoke. Keep that in mind. I think Lorraine Michael hit the nail almost directly on the head: the Government makes way too much money from cigarettes, which is why they keep raising the prices to discourage it, rather than outright banning it. I think that it's a lost cause to try and ban smoking (whether it's around entrances, or just in general). The BEST solution that I can think of is using those nicotine inhalers, called eCigarettes--they have nicotine laced water that produces water vapor and are safe to smoke indoors as they produce no second hand smoke (no smoke at all, really--just steam) AND you could get the "Nicotine Juice" in various levels of nicotine content, to help you quit if you wanted. A few years ago they were Not Approved in Canada, but I don't know if that's been repealed---but I can just guess that the reason they weren't allowed is because of the damage they'd do to the Tobacco industry. It makes perfect sense in every way except financially to have smoking virtually banned--the problem is, everybody feels like dollar signs outweigh all the other criteria combined.

  • Anon
    October 23, 2011 - 18:12

    “Policies like that are about trying to get people to quit, not trying to crucify the smoker,” Coady said. Clearly this Coady fellow never had to deal with a relative that just had a massive heart attack and the only thing they can do to keep themselves sane is smoke a full cig in 30 seconds. ACT are the ones that need to butt out. Butt out of everyone elses business and private lives. What ever happened to common sense? What's the issue with someone smoking along the wall if the wind is blowing it away from people? All I hear is complaints from people who can't tell dignified smokers with respect from others apart from rude and selfish smokers who don't care which way the wind blows or how many youngsters is with ya. Get over it b'ys. Soon they'll be tryin' to give us mandatory minimum sentences for smoking cigarettes.

  • tom
    October 23, 2011 - 17:09

    On the back of Worker's Comp you get a face full of smoke every time you pass - and they are supposed to help prevent Occ disease. Gimme a break.

  • Jean
    October 23, 2011 - 15:10

    I have noticed that since smoking is "banned" in public places there is quite the mess of cig butts on the ground around the perimeter of the buildings...that is least put concrete ashtrays there and make the places hopsital, govt. buildings.etc.

  • Smoker
    October 23, 2011 - 14:24

    Just Saying, and WillyB. The word you are looking for is LOSE. Not LOOSE.

  • willyb
    October 22, 2011 - 16:24

    So what do these clowns do get together on Saturday morning eat oatmeal and give a thumbs down to their next target. Who cares if Kevin Coady doesn't like people having a smoke he better not try to stop me from having a smoke. Mind your own business looser, might not want to put your nose where it don't belong!

  • Matt
    October 22, 2011 - 15:08

    I can see why you would want to keep cigarette smoke away from historic sites, they don't allow it in museums, it damages things. After years of smoke in bars the ceiling is all black. Maybe everyone can just drink Quit Tea while they are visiting.

  • Just Saying
    October 22, 2011 - 10:41

    I don't agree with smoking around doors but people have a right to smoke if they choose. Look at MUN they banned smoking a couple of months ago and no one is paying attention to that. Students are still puffing away and they should if they are paying thousands to go there, they should be able to puff if they want to.Just not at the doors. MUN made it so people would have to walk a mile to have a smoke and no one is paying any mind to that. They won't tell students their bread and butter to butt out or what you can't come on campus. MONEY talks and they won't want to loose out on students thousands of dollars.