North Syracuse to prohibit smoking in village parks

North Syracuse village trustees voted unanimously to prohibit the use of tobacco products in village parks at its regular board meeting Thursday March 13.

The board's decision came after a presentation from Kara Williams of Tobacco-Free Onondaga County's Young Lungs at Play initiative. The program invites all towns and villages in Onondaga County to eliminate children's exposure to secondhand smoke at public parks and playgrounds.

"I'm glad we're doing this," Mayor John Heindorf said. "And I think it's important that we make it tobacco-free instead of just smoke-free. I remember back in the day when the ballplayers would have big wads of [chewing] tobacco [in their mouths]. Now they've all got mouth cancer or throat cancer. It's just as bad as smoking tobacco."

The village chose to create a park policy prohibiting tobacco use everywhere but the parking lot rather than establishing a village law or ordinance.

"If we were to go with a local law, we'd have to set a date for a public hearing and then have the hearing before this could go into effect," said Teresa Roth, head of the village's parks and recreation department. "I think we should make this a park policy and see how it goes. If it doesn't have enough teeth or if we need help enforcing it, we'll see if we need to make it an ordinance."

Roth said North Syracuse's policy would be modeled after that of the city of Cortland. Cortland's policy statement is as follows:

"1. Tobacco use in the proximity of children, youth and adults engaging in or watching recreational activities is unhealthy and detrimental to the health of others.

"2. Tobacco products, once consumed in public spaces, are often discarded on the ground, thus posing a risk of ingestion to toddlers and causing a litter problem.

"3. As parents, leaders, coaches and officials, we are thought of as role models, and the use of tobacco products around youth has a negative effect on their lifestyle choices.

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