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Southampton Village mulls smoking limits in four parks

Southampton Village officials will hold a public hearing Thursday night on a proposal to restrict smoking in four village parks.

The plan would ban cigarettes, cigars and other smoking products within 50 feet of the playground at Agawam Park and within 50 feet of the village's popular Cooper's Neck Beach concession building,as well as its deck and shower areas.

It would also ban smoking completely in Downs Family Park and Windward Way Park.

At Agawam Park, Peggy Halsey watched her 3-year-old grandson crawl through a blue metal tube in the playground Wednesday. While no one was smoking, she said the idea of banning tobacco in the whole park was just wrong - though she said she was comfortable with the village's proposal for a ban within 50 feet of the playground.

"I don't smoke. But they have to have some place to do it," she said.

Village Mayor Mark Epley said the legislation had been requested by a local anti-smoking coalition. He said he did not want to ban smoking completely in all village parks, but did want to stop it where people were eating or playing ball.

"I wanted smoke-free areas where children are playing, at the playgrounds and the ballfields," he said.

The local law, if passed by the village board, calls for a fine of up to $1,000 and 14 days in jail.

Southampton would not be the first place on Long Island to adopt a smoking ban. But, even places that have such a law rarely find the need to enforce it. In 2003, Oyster Bay made it illegal to smoke at any of the town's parks or beaches. Huntington, too, has banned smoking in its parks for years.

Four years after the Oyster Bay law took effect, not a single ticket had been issued.

The New York City Council has discussed the possibility of a smoking ban in the city's 1,700 parks, and in California legislators are working on a smoking ban for the state's 278 parks and beaches. It is unclear if either of these proposals will actually be approved.

Lisa Alamia of Noyack wheeled her 4-month-old son Nicholas to the Agawam Park playground Wednesday with her friend, Kim Garypie, of Sag Harbor, who had her 4-month-old daughter, Layla, with her. Both women liked the idea of a smoking ban at the park. "When I was pregnant, it was a very big problem," Alamia said. "Smoke made me sick."

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