H’town considers smoking ban for parks, other properties

SARANAC LAKE – The town of Harrietstown board agreed Thursday night to look into banning smoking on all town-owned property, including its parks.

The move came after a presentation to the board by Nanette Postlethwait of the Adirondack Tobacco Free Network and Margot Gold of the North Country Healthy Heart Network.

“Our goal is to prevent our youth from being exposed to tobacco marketing and tobacco products in general,” Postlethwait said. “Secondhand smoke is another one of our large initiatives.”

Postlethwait provided the board with a packet of information, including literature that outlines the hazards of secondhand smoke, which can cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers and can trigger asthma attacks and respiratory infections in children. She also talked about the toxicity of cigarette butts and their impact on the environment.

“There’s tremendous concern here in the North Country regarding the amount of cigarette butts that are littering our area,” Postlethwait said. “Unfortunately, some of the ramifications of the Clean Indoor Air Act have led to an increase in cigarette butts being tossed onto our lands. Cigarette butts are the number-one leading litter in the world.”

Postlethwait cited data showing 12.5 percent of high school students and 19 percent of adults smoke in New York state, excluding New York City. Those rates are believed to be higher in Franklin County, Postlethwait said. In 2008-09, state data showed 30.7 percent of adults in the county smoke. The Tobacco Free Network’s own survey in 2011 found 38.9 percent of Franklin County adults said they smoke every day. She didn’t provide a percentage of Franklin County youth who smoke, but said statistics show 90 percent of smokers start before they turn 18 years old.

Councilman Jim Murnane cut to the chase and asked Postlethwait if she was asking the town to enact anti-smoking policies.

“I think the board is in support and understands there’s a serious problem out there,” he said. “How can we help?”

Postlethwait said she’d like to see smoking banned, at the very least, in parks, playgrounds and other areas were children could be exposed to secondhand smoke.

Murnane said that could include Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, LaTour Park (along the shore of Lake Colby across from Adirondack Medical Center), and the town baseball fields near the Saranac Lake Civic Center. Town officials also said they could consider banning smoking at the entrances to town buildings like the Harrietstown Town Hall and the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.

Postlethwait and Gold noted that the village of Saranac Lake passed a local law in 2010 that banned or restricted smoking in several village parks. Sample policies from other communities that have banned smoking were provided to the board.

“I think it’s great that the town is interested in joining with the village and expanding the protection of youth and others from exposure to secondhand smoke,” Gold said.

“People may approach you with questions and concerns. There are some anger issues around, you know – ‘I have a right to smoke,'” Postlethwait said. “We’re not trying to take away rights; we’re trying to educate people and advocate for the rights of nonsmokers to be able to have that barrier available to them.”

Murnane proposed the board further explore establishing anti-smoking “policies and ordinances in all appropriate town-owned properties.” The measure passed unanimously.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.