Chenango towns pressured to ban smoking in parks

NORWICH – After the passing of a state law in April that prohibits smoking at all New York State playgrounds and pools, pressure is being put on Chenango County municipalities to apply similar laws to public parks.

The state’s anti-smoking rule would lead to disorderly conduct violations for smokers who light up in banned areas within state parks and while the new rule is facing opposition from smokers’ rights groups, some locals and non-profit agencies including Tobacco-Free Chenango are hoping the changes in state parks will become a model for parks throughout the county – the reason being primarily due to risks of second-hand smoke.

A 2010 report released by the New York State Department of Health cited that 25 percent of adults in Chenango County are smokers, which far exceeds the New York State average of 18.9 percent. The high percentage of smokers in Chenango makes it a sensitive subject in the county, explained James Mutabiilwa, coordinator of Tobacco-Free Chenango at the Chenango Health Network.

“I think that now, we are receiving more information and more facts and it’s a better time to address the issue again,” said Mutabiilwa. Mutabiilwa cited information from a 2008 Chenango County Community Tobacco Survey, stating that 91 percent of county residents favor smoke-free playgrounds; nearly 81 percent favor smoke-free parks; and 92 percent are bothered by secondhand smoke.

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