Cigarette butts worry neighbours of Sudbury hospital as smokers move to public property
Councillor says City working with NBRHC to find solutions
A Sudbury resident says he and his neighbours are concerned about the hundreds of cigarette butts littering the ground from smokers who work at a nearby mental health hospital.
Staff and visitors of the Sudbury campus of the North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) have been forced off the property if they want a cigarette, after Smoke-Free Ontario laws banned smoking on all hospital property on Jan. 1, 2018.
When the regulations kicked in, NBRHC management and the City of Greater Sudbury co-ordinated to set up an ashtray on a patch of grass just off hospital property on Kirkwood Drive, near the entrance to its parking lot.
Ian MacDonald, who owns a home across the street, says that while many smokers use the receptacle on their breaks, others seem to ignore it altogether.
"It's unbelievable, there's got to be 500, 600, 700 cigarette butts there, despite there being an ashtray," he says.
MacDonald notes a handful of butts inevitably end up on residential properties like his own, blown by the wind or dropped by passing smokers.
However, he says he's even more concerned with the fact the neighbourhood is located uphill from Ramsey Lake, one of the sources of Sudbury's drinking water.
"What happens if there's a thousand cigarette butts there and there's a sudden heavy rain, like will happen in the spring? That will just end up in Ramsey Lake," says MacDonald, who is a full-time physician.
MacDonald has been communicating with the NBRHC and the City. He says he wants all parties to seek another solution, including finding municipal property or an easement on the hospital's campus to set up the ashtray.
"When you marginalize the smokers to the rim of this massive property, right next to a bunch of residences, I find it hard to believe that was [the hospital's] plan, to simply offload the potential environmental toxicity into someone else's yard," says MacDonald.
Looking for answers
City Councillor Fern Cormier, who represents the ward, asked for the ashtray to be installed on municipal property after the provincial regulations came into effect.
"Since people will utilize that area anyway, we had to come up with finding the right spot. We're still communicating with the hospital on finding the right spot for this thing so it doesn't have a negative impact on area residents," says Cormier.
He has also asked the City's by law department to help locate a better location for the ashtray.
He adds the NBRHC have been "fairly responsive" to the situation.
"It is a new thing right now, so little hiccups are to be expected," says Cormier. "I do anticipate going forward, with the cooperation we've received from the centre so far, that we can find a resolution that can suit everybody."
However, he concedes that guaranteeing smokers will use the ashtray, no matter where it's set up, may be another question altogether.
"That's where it takes cooperation from the staff of the centre as well as the management, in making sure people do use it and use it properly. And of course the cooperation of the centre on maintaining the cleanliness of the area," says Cormier, emphasizing the latter is the hospital's responsibility.
Health unit not yet involved
Jon Groulx is an environmental support officer at Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD).
He says that while PHSD is charged with enforcing the Ontario Smoke-Free Act, it was not involved in the placement of the ashtray, nor the cleanliness of the area.
He adds that PHSD has not received a complaint about a direct threat to Ramsey Lake.
"We're certainly sympathetic to those concerns," says Groulx. "But we would have to look into it further to see if there's an actual public health hazard that exists as the result of the placement of those ashtrays."
For his part, MacDonald says he believes decision-makers at the North Bay-based health centre would be more concerned if they called Sudbury home.
"This is exactly what happens when everyone lives in their own silo," says MacDonald.
The NBRHC did not respond to multiple emails sent to its communications team throughout the week.