To the Editor:
Recently, the Lewisboro Town Board unanimously agreed to implement an ordinance that stands to benefit all of their residents and the environment. The ordinance will call for “tobacco-free zones” in parks, playgrounds and picnic areas. I applaud the board for passing an ordinance that serves to protect the health of its residents. Let’s be clear; this ordinance is not about “nannying,” it’s about health preservation.
Throughout New York State, tobacco-free outdoor areas have become a growing trend over the past two years. Over 200 localities across the state have passed regulations making outdoor recreational areas smoke-free. Local governing bodies are now acknowledging the importance and mass benefit of not only preserving the environment but also reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and reducing the risk of fires.
Clean smoke-free air is vital to improving the lung health and reducing the incidence of respiratory episodes that can be triggered by secondhand smoke. Many nonsmokers exposed to outdoor tobacco smoke suffer immediate symptoms including breathing difficulties, eye irritation, headache, nausea and asthma attacks. Secondhand smoke is a proven killer, causing as many as 53,000 deaths each year in the United States. Also, smoking near or in a playground provides a behavioral role model for young children. How many parents would tell you that they would directly encourage their children to start smoking?
Now let’s switch gears and highlight how this ordinance protects the environment. Cigarettes are the most littered item in America. Every year 4.95 trillion cigarette filters are discarded globally into our environment. Many are found on sidewalks, beaches, parks and other public places and often end up in our waterways and washed back onto beaches. Cigarette filters take many years to decompose but they are not 100 percent biodegradable. As filters break down, they leach toxic chemicals into watersheds, streams, lakes and oceans, and are hazardous and highly toxic to fish, birds, other wildlife, pets and young children if they are ingested. Outdoor smoking bans help to reduce the amount of cigarette butt litter and provide a substantial cost saving through reduced cleanup costs.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this ordinance is not about “nannying.” It is positive step that the Town Board has taken to protect the community from secondhand smoke while simultaneously promoting positive health messages and a cleaner, safer environment.
POWR (Putnam, Orange, Westchester, Rockland) Against Tobacco