Attorneys for the two remaining plaintiffs, Jeff Legato of NAPA Auto Parts in East Jordan and Scott Way of Way Transportation in Charlevoix, will argue against the section of the smokefree business regulation that reads, “No person or employee shall discharge, refuse to hire, or in any manner retaliate against any employee, applicant for employment, or customer because such employee, applicant, or customer exercises any right to a smokefree environment afforded by this regulation.”
“The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to uphold all but this one section of the clean indoor air regulation is a major victory for most workers in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties,” said Jim Young, who represents the Health Department. “Scientific evidence shows that secondhand smoke is a known health hazard which causes cancer and heart disease. This regulation is about saving lives.”
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, about 24 non-smokers die every year from the effects of secondhand smoke in the health district that includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.
“We knew the smoke-free portions of the regulation were legal,” Young added. “The Charlevoix Circuit agreed with us, then the Court of Appeals agreed with us and now the Michigan Supreme Court has agreed with us. The Supreme Court will only hear about the nonretaliation provision, which is a very minor provision in the regulation. This is a major victory for the Health Department and the counties that have supported this regulation.”
The “Regulation Eliminating Smoking in Public and Private Worksites and Certain Public Places” went into effect on October 4, 2005 after being adopted by the County Boards of Commissioners from Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. Of the 30 commissioners serving at the time, 27 voted for the regulation.
The regulation was challenged later in Charlevoix County Court by three Antrim County men, Kent McNeil, Franklin Fisher, and Roger Griffin; Judge Richard Pajtas ruled in favor of the Health Department. After the Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of the Health Department, McNeil, Fisher, and Griffin, joined by Legato and Way, requested the Michigan Supreme Court hear the case.
The smokefree business regulation remains in effect in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties. The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners voted to withdraw from the regulation earlier this year.
The regulation has been an overwhelming success in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties, according to Gerald Chase, Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “The Clean Indoor Air Regulation has been in effect for three years now. We’ve helped many businesses develop a smokefree policy and have offered smoking cessation resources to hundreds of employees. There have been a few complaints, but once we explain how the regulation works, businesses comply without a problem. We look at enforcement as an educational process and it is working.”
The Health Department’s Clean Indoor Air act covers most worksites in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties, except for restaurants and bars, which cannot be included in smokefree legislation according to Michigan law.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about the Clean Indoor Air Regulation, visit www.nwhealth.org, or call Teresa Sington, Tobacco Reduction Coordination at 231-533-1012.