To the Editor:
I’m the health teacher at Potsdam Central School. As part of my high school health class I challenge my students to “improve the health of your community” through project based learning (PBL). They must propose a PBL project and then implement one. I like to lead by example.
This July my family and I enjoyed Summer Fest! My concern is for the amount of tobacco smoke we were exposed to. During the parade my daughter’s ages 9 and 10 made many futile attempts to move their seating in to stay out of the second-hand smoke. There were smokers and cigarette butts everywhere. The festival is touted as a family event and yet the smell of smoke was pervasive throughout the event. We planned to listen to the various musicians and bands, yet once again the smell of tobacco smoke was overpowering. We left the downtown area because of my concern for our health. If you smell smoke you are inhaling it. This is not healthy! Secondhand smoke is responsible for 49,000 deaths in the USA every year.
In 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General stated that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition to the health risks associated with outdoor smoking, cigarette litter damages the environment and poses a hazard to children, pets and wildlife that may pick up or swallow these cigarette butts.
To improve the health of our community I propose that the Town and Village of Potsdam consider further restrictions on the use of tobacco. The following municipalities have passed 100 percent tobacco free parks: Village and Town of Massena, the Villages of Gouverneur, Norwood, Madrid and Waddington. Potsdam needs to join the other 293 NY municipalities, which have 100 percent Tobacco Free Laws. These laws effectively impact over 80 percent of the residence of our state.
I further propose that the Town and Village of Potsdam add a “public event clause” means occurrences where people are congregate in close proximity including, but not limited to, parades, fairs, farmers’ markets, concerts, and ceremonies. Outdoor smoking ordinances are designed to be self-enforcing. The expectation is that through education and signage, residence will become aware of smoking restrictions and most individuals will obey the law. If someone does smoke in a restricted area, other people are more likely to ask the individual to stop and inform the smoker of the restrictions.