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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smoking Banned In White Plains Parks


It will soon be illegal for you to light up a smoke cigarettes in 19 of the City's outdoor spaces. In a month, local children will never again have to scurry by a stinky cigarette while playing at a White Plains park.

The White Plains Common Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that would prohibit cigarettes use and smoking cigarettes in its outdoor parks, playgrounds, playing fields, trails and recreation centers�in an effort to give all of the city's residents and visitors the freedom to enjoy fresh carcinogen-free air.

"I think we are a progressive city, we're an ecofriendly city," said Councilman Dennis Power, the sponsor of the ordinance, at Monday's council meeting. "It all comes down to the fact that we are protecting people and our children from the affects of secondhand smoke."

Wayne Francis from the White Plains Cares Coalition, a citizen group that focuses on meeting the needs of the city's youth, and Makeda James, the Westchester County Coordinator for POW'R Against cigarettes, both applauded the city's efforts to reduce exposure to harmful secondhand cheap cigarettes smoke, which contains cancer-causing carcinogens. The ordinance takes place 30 days after its passing.

Those who are caught puffing away in a restricted area will be fined $25 fine for the first offense, $50 for the second and $75 for subsequent offenses. All ashtrays would be removed from areas where smoking cigarettes is prohibited.

"One of the things we're not trying to do is create more work for our public safety [department]," said Council President Benjamin Boykin, who co-sponsored the legislation. "It's really about the health of our city and our quality of life."

Enforcement of the ordinance will be mostly left to park-goers to remind each other that the rules call for no smoking cigarettes. If a police officer happens to catch someone smoking cigarettes where they shouldn't be, a ticket will be issued.

"I don't think you're going to see a sting operation with police officers hiding behind trees [waiting to catch people smoking cigarettes]," said Mayor Tom Roach.

Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona explained that enforcement will be difficult, but that the ordinance is "more of an educational program," that will spread awareness of the effects of secondhand smoke.

A 2007 study (attached as a PDF) by Stanford University found that "a non-smoker sitting a few feet downwind form a smoldering cigarette is likely to be exposed to substantial levels of contamination air for brief periods of time," a press release said.

The report found that by moving six-feet away from an outdoor smoker reduces the exposure risk of secondhand smoke, also known as environmental cheap cigarettes smoke. However, according to the U.S. Surgeon General's 2006 report (attached as PDF), there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke.

The report states that thousands of Americans die each year from secondhand discount cigarettes smoke; breathing in secondhand smoke cigarettes could be like smoking cigarettes yourself; it causes respiratory problems, heart disease and lung cancer; that it is particularly harmful to children; is a known cause for sudden infant death syndrome and can cause asthma, lung and ear infections in children.

"No smoking cigarettes" sections do not protect you from second hand smoke, nor does filtering air or opening a window, according to the report.

When smoking cigarettes indoors in public places, like bars and restaurants was banned, Councilman John Martin admitted that he felt the law was intrusive and violated one's freedom. However, after learning about new studies that prove the effects of secondhand smoke�he supported the law, and now supports the City's ban. Roach agreed that the ordinance does not violate one's personal liberties.

"There are a number of things you are permitted to do in your homes, that you are not able to do in our parks," he said.

Councilwoman Beth Smayda explained that the ban would be cost effective for the City since the "No Smoking" signage would be donated by POW'R Against cigarettes, and that public works employees would no longer have to spend time picking up cigarette butts and cleaning ashtrays.

According to the Americans For Non-Smokers' Rights' website, cigarette butts are harmful to the environment since there are 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts trash each year; they are not biodegradable; and are harmful to fisheries, water supplies and wildlife.

Most of the input the council received since first discussing the ordinance early this year has been positive, according to Councilman David Buchwald.

Some residents like Lou Bruno�Bryant Gardens Neighborhood Association President, corresponding secretary for the White Plains Council of Neighborhood Associations and founder of WPSmokeFree.org. �want to see the council take the ban even further like the 2007 ban in Belmont, Calif. which prohibits smoking cigarettes in multi-unit dwellings.

"The ban on smoking cigarettes in parks and playgrounds will cost almost nothing to implement, will meet with widespread approval, and will measurably increase the health, safety and quality of life for those enjoying our parks and playgrounds," he wrote to the council in March. "Let's get this done now and start working on a ban for the last vulnerable venue, multifamily housing."

However, not all share the same anti-smoking cigarettes sentiment when it comes to banning smoking cigarettes in outdoor areas.

"The antismoking cigarettes movement has always fought with science on its side, but New York's ban on outdoor smoking cigarettes seems to fulfill its opponents' charge that the movement is being driven instead by an unthinking hatred of cigarettes online smoke," said Michael B. Siegel, in ?a New York Times Op-Ed piece? on New York City's ban on smoking cigarettes in parks and beaches that went into affect on May 23.

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