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St. Lawrence County smoking ban begins

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County’s ban on smoking on its property is approaching quietly.

No one showed up at the first two stop smoking sessions county Public Health put on for employees.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how people deal with it.”

The law — passed by the county Board of Legislators on Nov. 5 — goes into effect Saturday.

Under the provisions of the regulation, the use of tobacco products on all property owned or leased by the county, including buildings, beach and shoreline areas, playing fields, parks, picnic areas, hiking trails and other recreational areas, is outlawed.

The law prohibits people from smoking in their vehicles on county property, but it exempts smoking in a privately owned motor vehicle that is entering or leaving county property.

It also exempts county roads and forests, except for multiuse trails.

At the time of passage, some legislators objected to the law as being unenforceable, but others said they expected employees and visitors to follow the rules under an honor system.

“I think it’s just as important for the public to know so they don’t get blindsided,” said Benjamin R. Todd, tobacco program coordinator.

Signs will be posted explaining the ban, but no official will watch over the grounds and write tickets.

Linda Curry, a county employee who spoke against the law at a public hearing, said she thought the ban would have little effect on stopping employees from smoking since workers have not been able to light up inside county buildings for years.

“It’s not a big deal. If you can’t, you can’t,” she said. “You just abide by what they come up with.”

Employees who smoke still may do so at lunch or during their breaks if they leave the property.

“It’s not going to make anybody quit,” Mrs. Curry predicted.

The most difficult site for county workers could be the Canton Human Services Building because it is on busy Route 310, which has no sidewalk.

Some employees may be waiting for the ban to take effect before they quit or they may not have any interest in stopping, Mr. Todd said.

Smoking prohibitions are sometimes the push needed to get someone to quit, he said.

Stop smoking programs for county workers have been scheduled only for May 7 and May 21. Both sessions will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Canton Human Services Building.

The county estimates that 25 to 30 percent of its employees smoke, in keeping with the approximation that 27 percent of county residents smoke, Ms. Hathaway said.

The legislation is a way for the county to demonstrate its commitment to a healthy workplace and environment, she said.

Smoking accounts directly for annual health care costs in New York of $8.17 billion. The portion covered by state Medicaid is $5.4 billion. A state resident’s state and federal tax burden from smoking-related government expenses is $883 per household, according to figures provided by Public Health.

Those figures do not include costs caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, smoking-related fires, smokeless tobacco use and cigar and pipe smoking, along with workplace productivity losses.

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