postheadericon Village of Lansing Considers Smoke Free Law

nosmokingTompkins County Health Department Planner/ Evaluator Ted Schiele asked Village of Lansing Trustees Monday to consider passing a tobacco-free law, or at least a smoke-free law.  The law could apply to all municipal property in the Village, including parks, trails and playgrounds as well as the Village Office and DPW buildings.  Schiele said that providing smoke free spaces is a matter of access for those who don't smoke or who have health conditions that are aggravated by second hand smoke.

"That's how we look at it," he said.  "Full access for everybody, responsibility for public health and sustainability.  The Surgeon General has said there is no safe level of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.  The most recent Surgeon General's report that came out in January confirms that second hand smoke is known to cause strokes in non-smokers.  So we're talking about a serious health issue."

Schiele said the Town of Lansing passed a smoke-free law in 2009 in place for Town buildings and the Town Ball Fields, but not for Myers Park because of confusion with other kinds of smoke from campfires and cooking fires .  He said the City of Ithaca has a more complicated and comprehensive plan, and added that a new state law increases outdoor smoking bans, recently aimed at preventing smoking on playgrounds.

Superintendent of Public Works John Courtney objected to a possible tobacco-free law.  He said that his crew in the DPW uses chewing tobacco and argued that there is no second hand smoke associated with chewing tobacco, so that should continue to be allowed.

"I understand the smoking aspect of it," he told Schiele.  "Your key points kept touching on the smoking aspect.  These are adult men.  They work hard.  They're in there twelve hours a day.  I think they know what's good for them and they can either do it or not do it.  This eliminates that.  Smoke free is different from tobacco free."

Schiele said he doesn't accept that they can make their own decisions about using tobacco because of its addictive nature. 

"The reason we promote tobacco free is that it is in some part a matter of the health of the individual," he said.  "It's contradictory to say that smokeless tobacco is OK."

But he conceded that a smoke free law is better than nothing, noting that the Sheriff's union pushed back against a tobacco-free policy at the Public Safety building and a smoke-free policy was established instead.

There was much discussion about whether or not smoking should be allowed at Dankert Park, the Village's only park located on Uptown Road.  Trustee John O'Neill argued that a smoking gazebo be set aside.  But Schiele said the Health Department wants to change the social norm, and moderating health behaviors in youth.

"The thing about a smoking area is that everybody's definition of what that gazebo is is going to be different, but there's no doubt about where the property line is," he said.  "The best way to establish a policy is to be unequivocal about where the smoking area is or is not.  From a social and public health standpoint we're trying to say we can't make everybody stop smoking, but we do believe it is something tat is not appropriate for public use in the same way that it has been determined that alcohol is not appropriate for public use."

Trustee Pat O'Rourke said establishing a smoking gazebo would defeat the whole object of a smoke-free law, but O'Neill argued that it would be located a distance from the play areas and the pavilion.  Schiele also noted that it makes that gazebo unusable for non-smokers.

Trustee and Deputy Mayor Lynn Leopold agreed.  She asked where the Village should draw the line, asking if they should also provide a drinking gazebo.  She said an outright ban in the park makes more sense.

"We're trying to set a good example," she said.  "If we say it's OK to smoke and we're still bringing kids to the park it sees to me that's a really mixed message.  We don't allow alcohol on public property.  Would we have a special drinking place for people who want to drink?  Where do you draw the line?"

Schiele acknowledged that a large part of enforcing smoke free laws is changing societal norms and the public's expectations about when or whether smoking is appropriate.  He said that his advocacy against smoking is meant to target smoking, not smokers who may have inadvertently become addicted to tobacco.

"This country was built on tobacco," he said.  "There's a long history.  The Surgeon General report linking smoking to lung cancer came out 50 years ago.  It was probably 60 years ago that the Marlboro Man came out, and he's been a lot more popular than the Surgeon General.  Five Marlboro Men have died of lung cancer." 

"It's a process," he added.

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