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Published: Tuesday, 10/19/2004

2 big health care systems reject amendment to smoking ban

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dr. John Newton, speaking yesterday at Academy of Medicine, and, from left, Dr. Marian Rejent, Dr. Mark Seal, and Dr. Ernest Brookfield join others in urging a 'no' vote on Issue 4. Dr. John Newton, speaking yesterday at Academy of Medicine, and, from left, Dr. Marian Rejent, Dr. Mark Seal, and Dr. Ernest Brookfield join others in urging a 'no' vote on Issue 4.
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Northwest Ohio's two largest health systems said yesterday they're opposed to Issue 4 on next month's ballot, an amendment that would weaken Toledo's existing smoking ban.

ProMedica Health System and Mercy Health Partners were joined by the Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County, a professional organization representing about 80 percent of Lucas County's doctors.

Academy officials and other physicians gathered yesterday in the academy's office in West Toledo, where they urged a "no" vote on Issue 4, saying the matter is about public health, not jobs.

Passing Issue 4 "would be one of the worst steps our community could take," Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner for the Toledo-Lucas County health department, said during the press conference.

The event was organized by the health department and Citizens for a Healthy Toledo, a group supportive of the smoking ban.

Issue 4 would revise Toledo's smoking ban by allowing smoking in bars that get less than 35 percent of revenue from food and in all eating and drinking establishments with nine or fewer employees. It would also allow the size of smoking lounges in restaurants to be up to 50 percent of the service area.

Bar owners supportive of the amendment say the existing ban is hurting business by driving customers away, especially to surrounding communities that don't have bans in place.

Physicians and health system officials said it's no surprise they'd support a smoking ban.

Dr. Lee Hammerling, chief medical officer for ProMedica, said his organization recently reaffirmed its support, but said ProMedica has always supported a smoking ban because of the "clear scientific evidence linking secondhand smoke with disease."

He said ProMedica's support of the smoking ban, and opposition to Issue 4, was an easy call. "This is not controversial for us," he said. "It's a very clear-cut decision."

Sarah Bednarski, a Mercy spokesman, said Mercy has also been supportive of a tough smoking ban since it was first proposed. She said Mercy's upper management reaffirmed that position last week.

"As a health-care organization, our position has always been to improve the health of the communities we serve," she said. "We supported the ban a year ago when it was passed, and we continue to support it, as well as support voting no on Issue 4."

Contact Luke Shockman at:

lshockman@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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