Harrietstown approves tobacco ban

SARANAC LAKE – The Harrietstown board has outlawed the use of tobacco in the town’s parks and other properties.

The town board unanimously approved a local law Thursday that prohibits the use of tobacco on the Harrietstown Town Hall property, in LaTour Park on Lake Colby, on the Rotary and Elks baseball fields near the Saranac Lake Civic Center, at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center and at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, except in designated smoking areas there.

The decision followed a public hearing at which only one person spoke. Margot Gold of the North Country Healthy Heart Network encouraged the board to approve the law. She and a representative of the Adirondack Tobacco Free Network had approached the town in April, asking it to at least ban tobacco products in parks, playgrounds and other areas where children could be exposed to secondhand smoke.

When the local law came up for approval, Councilman Ron Keough said he was concerned about how it would be enforced, especially in front of the town hall.

“I don’t oppose the law; I’m just saying, in the past, we haven’t done local laws for Lake Colby, Kiwassa and other kinds of things because we couldn’t enforce them,” Keough said. “Enforcement is going to be an issue.”

Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua said just posting a no smoking sign in the parks or in front of the town hall will make people think twice about lighting up.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue,” he said. “It’s almost self-enforcing, I would hope.”

Keough said he doesn’t think it will be an issue at the ball parks, Dewey Mountain or the airport. But he said enforcing the law in front of the town hall could be a bit of “a gray area.” While the front steps of the building are the town’s property, the sidewalk is owned by the village of Saranac Lake. Many people smoke in front of the building during days when village court is in session, town officials said.

“Who’s going to tell them to leave?” asked town Clerk Patricia Gillmett. “I don’t have a problem going out there and telling them to get off the front steps, you know, but then what if somebody takes a punch at me?”

Keough suggested town officials talk to the village board and village police department about how to enforce the law in front of the building and ask if the village would enact the same restrictions for the sidewalk. Councilwoman Nichole Meyette suggested the town and village talk about establishing a designated smoking area near the town hall.

Gold said the town and village may need to get together to iron out those issues. The village has a Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board that could also be involved, she said.

“(The town’s local law) is a huge first step,” Gold said. “There are other issues that will have to be negotiated. I think signage is a first step in saying, ‘This property is tobacco free.’ Compliance is never 100 percent, but over time it becomes closer and closer to that number.”

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.