Adamstown discourages smoking with signs

By on September 12, 2012

By: JAMES MCGINNIS Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Adamstown officials hope to deter smoking in parts of the borough’s park.

The council narrowly voted at last Tuesday’s borough meeting to post signs in the vicinity of the playground stating "Young Lungs at Play, Please Do Not Smoke."

Despite their message, the signs do not reflect a change of policy in the park or borough. Although smoking is currently prohibited inside all municipal buildings, outdoor smoking is still permitted on all public property, including the park.

However, borough residents Susan and Bob Russo, the two main proponents of posting the signs, said that they hope that they will discourage people from smoking in the presence of young children.

"These signs will not enact any actual policies banning smoking," Susan Russo told the council. "They will just discourage people from lighting up near the playground."

Russo added that studies have repeatedly shown that, in addition to the dangers to the smokers themselves, cigarette smoking has harmful effects on other people who are nearby, regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors.

"It’s not like a smoker exists in a bubble," she explained. "There is also the issue of second-hand smoke. Studies show that the urine of children in homes with a smoker has nine percent more carcinogens than those who do not live with a smoker. Chronic lung disease is not pretty."

However, both the council and other borough residents were divided over the proposal.

Councilman Joe Dietrich expressed support for posting the signs and favored a complete ban on smoking in the park.

"We don’t allow alcohol in the park," he said. "I don’t know why the same policy can’t be extended to smoking."

Councilman Randy Good agreed with Dietrich that a total smoking ban be enacted in the park.

"I was approached by several people during Community Day who complained about smoking in the park," he said.

However, council members Ed Zander, David Matz and Cindy Schweitzer said that they believed that a ban would be going too far. They voiced concerns that both proposals would be infringing on individual rights.

Zander said that he agreed that smokers should not light up indoors, especially if there are children present, but objected to any attempt to expand smoking bans outdoors.

"This is going too far," he said. "The ultimate goal is to ban smoking everywhere."

Zander also suggested that borough residents who smoke should get a tax break if any ban is enacted. "They pay for the facilities, too," he said.

Matz noted that he does not smoke, but agreed that banning smoking entirely would be too intrusive.

"As nasty as smoking is, where is this going to stop?" he asked. "Are they going to ban the consumption of junk food next?"

Borough resident Byron Fritz also expressed his opposition to any smoking bans.

"This is an infringement on freedom," he said. "The government wants to control every aspect of our lives."

The Russos responded to this criticism by reiterating that a decision to simply post the signs would not completely ban smoking in the park.

"They merely suggest that people not smoke," Bob Russo said. "The police would not be fining or arresting violators."

The council agreed to post the signs in a 4 to 3 vote, with Zander, Schweitzer and Matz dissenting.

Resident Virginia McGrath said she was pleased that council agreed to post the signs.

"It’s important that people remember that this is a health issue," she said. "It isn’t just the government. Scientists and the FDA, among others, agree that smoking is dangerous."

In other business, Good also noted that natural gas company UGI is still interested in expanding service into the borough if enough residents show interest. He reminded anyone who lives in or owns a business in the borough to call or send a letter to UGI if they are interested in a hook-up. More ADAMSTOWN, page A10

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