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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.

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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