News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Michigan Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Health Department

(July 22, 2009) The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Health Department in a lawsuit challenging its smokefree workplace regulation in Charlevoix County.

"This is great news," said Gerry Chase, Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, which serves Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. "Public policy helps protect non-smokers from the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke, a proven cancer-causing substance. Our regulation is just one way we are working to prevent deaths due to tobacco use." The Michigan Department of Community Health estimates 24 non-smokers die unnecessarily from secondhand smoke in the Health Department’s four-county district, he said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Kent McNeil, Franklin Fisher, Roger Griffin along with local businessmen Scott Way and Jeff Legato, argued two issues before the Supreme Court in January, 2009: Local health departments do not have authority to create public health regulations that control smoking in the workplace and that the provision in the regulation that protects "Whistle Blowers" interferes with Michigan’s traditional at-will employment doctrine.

"The Michigan Supreme Court unanimously and unquestionably vindicated our position that a local health department has the legal authority to pass such an important public health regulation. Initially, Charlevoix County Circuit Judge Pajtas concluded our position was legally sound. Our position and his well-reasoned decision were affirmed later by a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals and now by the Supreme Court. We have prevailed on every issue that was raised." said Jim Young, the attorney who represented the health department in all three cases.

The Board of Commissioners of Charlevoix County has since rescinded the smokefree workplace regulation in that county. It is in effect in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties.

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 Public Health Clean Indoor Air Regulation of 2005, contact Teresa Loudenslager, Tobacco Reduction Coalition Coordinator, at 231-533-1012 or visit