No Smoking! Officials consider making Arkport park tobacco-free

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Thursday, February 23, 2012 | Neal Simon | Categories:
Arkport, N.Y. — Village officials may start booting all butts out of the village park. Cigarette butts, that is. Arkport officials appeared receptive Tuesday night to a “tobacco-free parks” presentation by Cassie Coombs, program coordinator for Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Community Partnership. Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness is promoting measures to make municipal parks, ball fields and playgrounds tobacco free zones. The group has sample ordinances for boards to consider and survey results they say point to public support in Steuben County for anti-smoking measures in public recreation areas. Tuesday night, Coombs told village officials that some 280 municipalities in New York have adopted tobacco-free measures. “In our area, we are really getting momentum for tobacco-free zones in our local parks,” Coombs said Wednesday. “The Town of Southport (in Chemung County) just passed a local ordinance (establishing tobacco free zones).” If Arkport passes a tobacco-free ordinance it will become the third to do so in Steuben County, joining the City of Hornell and the Village of Savona. Hornell has designated its parks as tobacco-free zones while Savona has banned tobacco use in playground areas, at athletic fields and in spectator sections of the town park. The sample resolution that Coombs provided to village officials would establish a $100 fine for violating the ordinance or “permitting, aiding, abetting, or concealing a violation.” However, Coombs said the ordinances are designed to change behavior — much like laws that require dog owners to clean up after their pets — not to fill government coffers with fines. Southern Tier Tobacco will provide Arkport with “young lungs at play” signs for the park and other material that supports and publicizes the restrictions, Coombs said. Coombs outlined three major problems with allowing smoking in public parks: the health risks associated with inhaling second hand smoke; the unsightly litter caused by discarded cigarette butts; and the danger of children seeing adults smoking and “modeling” that behavior. Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness calls cigarette butts “the most littered item in the world.” Coombs insisted that Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness is not trying to pick a fight with adult smokers, but she conceded the group wants to counter the sometimes glamorization of tobacco use in the mass media by reducing the “social acceptability” of cigarette smoking near children. Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness points to a 2009 community survey, saying the results demonstrate overwhelming support for smoking restrictions. According to the survey, 75 percent of Steuben County residents support restricting or eliminating smoking in public parks, while 70 percent favor the complete elimination of smoking near playgrounds. Additionally, according to the survey, some 70.5 percent of county residents believe breathing in secondhand smoke is very harmful. At least one village board member is has gone on record with his support. “It is simply the right thing to do,” said Trustee Mike Brewer. “We are going to try to get it done as quickly as possible. I think it is the best thing for our community.” Brewer favors a complete ban on smoking in every area of the park, but he noted that other board members may have a different view. And he said he is not focused on fines, and believes the ordinance would be self-regulating. “If a person sees a sign with kids, that says, ‘Save our lungs,’ how could they smoke?” Brewer asks. Asked why the park ban is so important, Coombs answered, “It’s important because it allows families and community members to enjoy outdoor activities in a healthy environment.”
The Evening Tribune
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