By Sue Tiffin
Published April 10 2018
Kris Kadwell is beaming surrounded by fellow coworkers of the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge Health Unit. He’s decked out in a shirt that reads “Retired Class of 2018” that was left in his office that morning March 29 his last day of work and joking about his height and best camera angles to avoid glare off his forehead.
He’s in good company and good spirits given that the afternoon lunch he’s at is dedicated to his retirement after working full-time for 35 years. But he’s also proud that the restaurant area he’s sitting in once used to be a smoking section and is now smoke-free – in part due to his efforts.
Kadwell began working as a student public health inspector in May 1982 and was hired as a public health inspector in September 1983 assuming he successfully completed the written and oral certification exam from the Canadian Institution of Certified Public Health Inspectors.
After completing that exam successfully in October 1983 his full-time work began.
“From this point I officially was hired as a full-time inspector in the Haliburton office and began to notice deductions into the OMERS company pension” he said “Which at the time it seemed like a lot of money deducted from each paycheque for something that was too far into the future to fully comprehend and/or appreciate.”
Kadwell said he was kept busy conducting Part 8 inspections and field work from the Ministry of the Environment with lot severances commercial and private septic system design and approval and well water safety as well as responding to any related complaints.
“The health unit also partnered with the MOE staff and conducted private sewage disposal system abatement programs at properties surrounding specified lakes” he said. “All of this was conducted along with the public health inspection programs including beach water sampling food safety rabies health promotion swimming pool inspections recreational camp inspections resorts and restaurant inspections tanning salons … to mention a few.”
Kadwell took special interest in health promotion activities including organizing and presenting training programs for contractors restaurant owners and staff and many rabies prevention courses for the general public doctors and school-aged youth. He also conducted certified food handlers national sanitation training programs that soon became a required and regulated standard for all food handler restaurant owners and operators.
In 1993 Kadwell said there was some talk that the health unit would soon be partnering with Health Canada and conducting some education and eventual enforcement activities for the pending Tobacco Control Act.
“Initially the majority of our attention would be directed toward youth access prevention” he said.
In 1995 HKPR began what is now known as test shopping in which underage shoppers were enlisted to enter stores and ask to buy a package of cigarettes.
“This was conducted with Health Canada inspectors in vans large enough to often hold one to two federal inspectors one to two test shoppers and often one to three public health inspectors in training” said Kadwell.
“During the first year (1995) of test shopping PHIs would issue warnings to stores that would sell to the students. This consumed a lot of time with the warnings and corresponding letters because during our initial attempts of test shopping at tobacco stores only about 50 per cent or less would be compliant and not sell to the young test shoppers. In the beginning of 1996 previously offending stores that were warned would be charged for a second sales offence. It was not long after this that the compliance rate started to improve dramatically and within a few of years the compliance rate improved to over 80 per cent and over the years has further improved and now typically remains at about 96 per cent.”
After program changes and restructuring in 1998 Kadwell applied for the position as a Tobacco Control Officer. He orientated and familiarized Crown prosecutors on the health unit’s involvement with the Tobacco Control Act of 1994 and conducted all the TCA education and enforcement activities for all three counties in the HKPR district. “A lot of businesses originally especially restaurants and bars I can’t tell you how many looked me in the eye and said ‘if you think you’re going to get me to get my clients to stop smoking you’re nuts this is ludicrous and draconian and not going to happen’” Kadwell told his coworkers. “Well it did and rather successfully.”
“Through the years there has been many revisions and re-writing of the TCA” he said. “In 2006 the Smoke-Free Ontario Act replaced the TCA and included many more restrictions including display and promotion of tobacco products prohibition of smoking in all indoor public and workplaces prohibiting smoking near hospital entrances and on public school property. Also the Electronic Cigarette Act came into effect and soon the SFOA ACT 2017 will include regulation further restrictions for both tobacco and E-cigarette products.”
Kadwell thanked his colleagues and his wife Rosie who also works for the HKPR in his farewell speech. “I was so excited to be able to live up north” he said. “I always had a passion for the north. I always had a dream I’d be able to have a job up here and that was a hard thing to do back in the ’80s … to find long-term employment that has provided me with a really good life in the place that I love and meeting the love of my life and raising two boys.”
He said that although in the role he had he often found himself having to ask people to make changes or spend money where they didn’t want to he is grateful to look back and see that his work has made an impact on the local environment and public health greater good.
Kadwell hopes to continue volunteering in the community including on his Paddling Beyond the Main Stream show at Canoe FM and the Haliburton County Folk Society.