Smithtown mulls outdoor smoking ban

A man smoking outside. (April 5, 2011) A man smoking outside. (April 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

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Concerned that secondhand smoke could harm children, Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio wants to ban smoking at town parks, beaches and playgrounds.

The ban, which isn't likely to be enacted before the end of summer, also would outlaw smoking within 50 feet of town buildings.

If the town board passes the measure, Smithtown would join New York City and at least six other Long Island towns and several villages that prohibit or restrict smoking in parks, playgrounds or beaches.

A smoking ban at state parks and beaches was lifted last month because of opposition from smokers. State officials are seeking to enact a permanent ban.

Smoking is banned on Long Island Rail Road platforms.

Vecchio, who said he never smoked, said families should be able to go to a park or beach without being bothered by other people smoking.

"I think that we shouldn't be having people smoking at beaches and at buildings where children are in attendance," Vecchio said. "I just figured it's a good health initiative, and that's what we ought to be doing."

Vecchio said he did not know when the town board would vote on the measure, which is being drafted by town attorney John Zollo. Violators would be referred to Fourth District Court in Hauppauge, where fines or other penalties could be assessed by a judge after a hearing.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that secondhand smoke causes up to 62,000 U.S. deaths a year among nonsmokers, including 3,000 deaths from lung cancer, and that exposure causes respiratory infections in 300,000 children a year.

Smithtown parks director Charles Barrett, who said he supports the ban, said employees at the town's 26 parks and four beaches are powerless when park users complain about smoking. "There's no code against it," he said. "There's nothing we can do about it."

Barrett said town parks do not have receptacles designated for cigarette butts. A smoking ban, he said, "would be a lot safer than someone flicking the butt in the garbage can."

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