Poughkeepsie Journal: Outdoor smoking ban weighed

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Michael Valkys • Poughkeepsie Journal •

December 22, 2010

 Smokers soon may no longer be allowed to light up
at Town of Poughkeepsie parks and playgrounds.

The Town Board is to vote tonight on a proposal
that would post signs designating such areas as
tobacco-free zones. The town has 22 parks, many of
which are used by youth sports leagues.

Officials hope the signs discourage people from
lighting up and protect others, especially children,
from secondhand smoke. But leaders acknowledge
the policy will be difficult to enforce. It is unclear
whether the proposal would include fines for people
found smoking in town parks.

Supervisor Patricia Myers said she hopes the signs
help prevent smokers from lighting up.

"When smokers are around small children, it's not
good," Myers said.

Communities across New York and America have
approved outdoor smoking bans, part of an effort to
improve residents' health. Hyde Park has limited
smoking in its major parks and the Town of
Wappinger has enacted similar measures.

Scott Santarella, president and CEO of the American
Lung Association in New York, said 200
communities across the state have policies against
smoking at parks, pools and playgrounds.

"It seems to be a growing trend," Santarella said,
adding such policies "certainly help with extending
protection against secondhand smoke."

He said about 2,500 New Yorkers die from
secondhand-smoke-related problems each year.

According to the American Cancer Society's website,
secondhand smoke each year in the United States
leads to 46,000 deaths from heart disease in
nonsmokers who live with smokers, and about
3,400 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults.

Resident Doreen Tignanelli said she supports
smoke-free parks, but she questioned how the
measure would be enforced.

"I would really hesitate to just go up to someone
and tell them they are not allowed to smoke,"
Tignanelli said. "I would be concerned about
approaching someone directly."

Poughkeepsie Councilman Todd Tancredi, R-6th
Ward, said he hoped people abide by the new policy
and that fines would not be necessary.

"I hope people use common courtesy and stay out of
the park when they are smoking," Tancredi said.

Myers said the signs should remind smokers to "just
be respectful" when they are near nonsmokers and
children at parks and ballgames.

This is not the first time officials have discussed
banning smoking in parks.

Two years ago, the board debated whether to ban
smoking in parks after a youth baseball official
complained that smokers were lighting up during
games.

The board never took action and the matter was
tabled.

Tom Meyering, the town's recreation chief, said he
recommended the board adopt a tobacco-free policy
for the parks, rather than a more formal ordinance
that would carry fines.

Meyering said the smoking issue came up again
recently after the group SmokeFree Dutchess
contacted town officials.