Give workers a place to smoke

You don't have to have a knack for reading between the lines to get the subtext of the situation between Rogue Valley Medical Center and its smoking employees.

The hospital wants employees who don't smoke. But it has several hundred — about 20 percent of its work force, it says — who do. It wants them to stop. If they won't, it at least wants them out of sight.

That's as in not standing along Barnett Road, the busiest of the four streets that edge the hospital campus, posed in scrubs, cigarettes dangling from their fingertips, smoke wafting into the street.

The hospital, which bans smoking on its campus, has asked the city of Medford to prohibit it on the sidewalks next to the hospital as well. The ban would apply to anyone on the sidewalk — RVMC employees, but also family members of patients or people who happen to walk by.

What effect would this likely have?

Presumably it would force employees — by far the largest group of smokers congregating near the hospital — to go elsewhere to do what the administration doesn't want anyone to see them doing. They could head to a nearby neighborhood, maybe, or to the other side of Barnett. They could perch on the concrete divider down the middle of the street.

Much of the debate around this issue has centered on the fact that sidewalks belong to the public and that they should remain open to the public. We agree. But it appears the city would be within the law to ban smoking on a sidewalk if it chooses.

What's wrong with that? It moves the problem around rather than solving it.

And frankly, this is an employer-employee issue. By hiring employees who smoke and then denying them a place to smoke at work, RVMC is caught in a public-relations embarrassment of its own making. Now it's trying to get the city to help fix it.

Although the hospital has done the right thing by offering employees smoking-cessation classes, it hasn't directly addressed the fact that not everyone's going to be willing or able to give up the addiction.

RVMC is a huge campus, one with many nooks and crannies. The answer here is not to push smokers ever farther from the building but to provide for them — without imperiling other workers or patients, of course — within the hospital grounds.

Kelton Shockey clearly takes organic beekeeping seriously. Now 4-H essay-contest judges have taken him seriously.

Kelton's winning essay made the case for connecting commercial beekeeping methods and colony collapse disorder, a serious threat to the world's food supply.

Kelton's theories that feeding bees corn syrup, stressing the hives by trucking bees around the country, and using man-made honeycomb foundations may not prove to be the final answer for millions of missing bees, but the process he used to arrive at his conclusions is sound science. He won the contest because he supported his premise through research and logic.

The prize was well deserved, and illustrates the value of learning that combines classroom time with hands-on experience.

Congratulations, Kelton, and good luck with your beekeeping and your future education.

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