Last month, the Town of Bangor faced an unfortunate incident involving the Bangor Sports Director, Richard Debyah’s, tobacco use during a girl’s softball game. Debyah continued to smoke even after he was advised by the umpire to stop – as tobacco use violates one of the Women of the Moose’s softball rules.
During the July 8th Bangor Town Board meeting, the Board took a positive step by clarifying their position on tobacco use; tobacco use is restricted to one location, the parking lot away from the building, and is no longer allowed on the grounds of the Community Center. The Board agreed to communicate this rule through signage and stated consequences for people violating this decision.
This decision is a silver lining of the precipitating incident and the Town Board is to be commended for taking quick action. It is our recommendation, however, that the Bangor Town Board and other municipal Boards throughout the County go one step further and consider the benefits of developing a policy to ban tobacco use on municipal owned property or at the minimum, on properties frequented by children and youth. A significant benefit of a policy is that it will clarify any confusion in the future of the Town’s stance on tobacco use.
Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the Surgeon General, 9 out of 10 smokers start before they are 18 years old, typically trying their first cigarette between ages 11 – 13. Youth are impressionable. Seeing adults they respect smoke, can chip away at a young person’s resolve not to. In addition, breathing second hand smoke can trigger asthma attacks and expose youth and adults to carcinogens and other chemicals.
It is for these reasons and others, that many NYS municipalities (8 in Franklin County) have passed a policy or law restricting tobacco use. For example, in 2011 the Village of Malone passed a ‘tobacco free’ policy for parks, playgrounds, and parking lots around the Village. In the southern end of the county, the Village of Saranac Lake passed an ordinance banning smoking from village properties that children use.
Municipal action to pass policies to promote healthy behaviors by residents and visitors is one very visible way in which our elected officials can help protect the health of all children and constituents.
UPDATE: We have been informed that the Town has in-fact placed the signs they said they would at their July 8th meeting.