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Ontario County considers banning tobacco use inside, outside its properties

Ontario County officials expected to adopt a smoking ban on all county-owned and leased property later this week have been guided by the numbers.

A survey done in the spring found that more than 60 percent of the 400 county workers who responded favor the ban, while almost 90 percent of county residents surveyed think smoking should be restricted or not allowed at public entryways.

Additional research data showed lung cancer and cardiovascular disease rates in the county above the statewide average.

Currently, smoking is not allowed inside buildings, but it is allowed at designated locations outside.

"The intent is not so much to beat people up as it is to create a bigger awareness and try to alleviate a situation where people walk into our buildings and there's smoke out there," said Dorothy N. Huber, East Bloomfield supervisor, chair of the health and medical services committee of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors and vice-chair of the board.

A hearing on the new anti-smoking law is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The new law is expected to be adopted at the same meeting.

The law would apply to the county's 900-plus workers, in addition to anybody who visits county property, such as government agency buildings and parks.

Public opinion about the proposal seems to depend on whether or not the person smokes.

"At public buildings and property people shouldn't have to be subjected to smoke if they don't want it," said non-smoker Debbie Gisleson, 33, of Canandaigua.

"To me, as a non-smoker, I think it's great," said John Stapleton, 52, of Canandaigua.

"I'm just against smoking. I used to be a smoker. I quit 10 years ago. I think everybody should quit. I'm a health fanatic," Stapleton said.

But smoker Angie West, 34, of Canandaigua doesn't think the new law is fair.

"That's not fair to them to say you can't smoke. If you're (a county employee) on your break, you should be able to go and have a cigarette," West said.

Nicole Sosnowski, 29, of Canandaigua said the new law will make it difficult for residents visiting county buildings.

"When you're out at the (Department of Social Services) building, there's times you need to have a cigarette, and if you can't smoke, you'll probably end up blowing up at them," said Sosnowski.

The proposed law prohibits all tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, on all county-owned and leased property and in all county-owned vehicles.

Smoking will be allowed in county parks, except within 100 feet of playgrounds, buildings and shelters.

The new law carries a civil penalty of up to $1,000 and it would be enforced by the Ontario County Board of Health. If adopted, it would take effect in 20 days.

Exceptions to the law include residents of the Ontario County Health Facility, who can smoke outside in designated locations, and the Finger Lakes Community College campus in Hopewell, where the State University of New York's smoking policy applies.

The college policy prohibits smoking inside buildings as well as college vehicles and off-campus facilities, such as satellite campuses in Geneva and Victor. Smoking is prohibited outside within 30 feet of entrances.

Without local legislation, state law applies. The state law adopted in 2003 prohibits smoking inside most public buildings.

Most counties, including Monroe County, operate under the state law.

But more and more counties are enacting stricter rules.

Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the New York State Association of Counties, said about a dozen counties have adopted laws similar to what's proposed in Ontario County.

"I would definitely say that it's a trend over the last three years that counties have addressed smoking on county property, in and around office buildings and on county property," LaVigne said.

For example, Seneca, Livingston, Allegany and Ulster counties have enacted laws similar to the one proposed in Ontario County.

Montgomery and St. Lawrence counties ban smoking near the entrances to county buildings.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Source: Democrat And Chronicle

Ontario County considers banning tobacco use inside, outside its properties