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April 10, 2013

Decision on Essex County Government Center smoking ban delayed

ELIZABETHTOWN — A proposal to make the Essex County Government Center smoke-free met with some resistance from county lawmakers this week.

The change to the Essex County Tobacco Policy proposed by the County Board of Supervisors’ Tobacco Policy Subcommittee would have outlawed all smoking on county property effective on the Nov. 15 date of the American Cancer Society’s 37th-annual Great American Smoke Out.

The smoke-free prohibition would have included the County Public Safety Building and County Jail in Lewis.

But the board’s Human Services Committee took no action on the request, with many supervisors citing difficulties in enforcing an outright ban on tobacco usage.

SUPPORT SOUGHT

Jessica Darney-Buehler of the County Public Health Department said they wanted to open a discussion with the committee to gauge feelings on the policy change.

“This is something that would be approved by the board,” Buehler said.

Buehler said she sent a mass email to county workers recently offering to help them quit smoking and providing free nicotine patches, gum and so on.

“We had a response. It did help some.”

The county has several designated smoking areas, mostly located behind county buildings. Those would be eliminated if the county went smoke-free.

“The more support there is on every level to create a society where tobacco-free is the norm, that’s good,” Buehler said.

ENFORCEMENT

Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said they don’t have the personnel to enforce a local law on smoking.

“I’m a little leery of smoke-free,” he said. “I’ve seen them (smokers) out on the sidewalks near CVPH (in Plattsburgh), throwing cigarette butts. I don’t want to create a situation for someone else.”

Unless a local law were passed to ban smoking in public, similar to an open-container law, people could still smoke on public sidewalks, Buehler said.

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