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Tobacco Free plan proposed at Norfolk Town Board meeting

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MASSENA - Benjamin R. Todd has already gotten the Massena Recreation Department to begin promoting his tobacco-free campaign, and now his efforts may be making their way toward Norfolk.

The signs that are being provided by Mr. Todd will soon be in place at Massena’s Alcoa Field, Bushnell Field, Springs Park and the Creative Playground on Danforth Place.

Through his talk with the Norfolk Town Board members Monday evening, he urged that they consider and at the least be aware of the dangers of tobacco use, in particular with youths.

Mr. Todd is the program coordinator of the St. Lawrence County Tobacco Free Community Partnership, and wanted the board to know of the possible steps they could take, some of which are already being considered in Albany County.

“What (Mr. Todd) is saying makes perfect sense. It seems to be a real growing health issue. Anything good like that, we will consider with our board. We have not discussed any information about it, but I’m sure it will be discussed in future meetings,” Councilman Robert J. Harvey said.

According to their Facebook page, the partnership aims to “work hard to decrease the social acceptability of tobacco use, and in turn, prevent our youth from ever being addicted to nicotine.”

Mr. Todd began his presentation rattling off countless statistics, mostly related to teen usage of tobacco and the harm that it causes.

“Close to 90 percent of current smokers started between the ages of 12 and 18. So, in other words, that’s the demographic we have to reach when it comes to prevention. Half of those people who began smoking, continue to smoke for 20 years after,” Mr. Todd said.

Mr. Todd was also largely critical of the tobacco marketing and how their methods have enticed youths to enter into the world of smoking. He noted that Nice N Easys in the St. Lawrence County area display “flavorful” cigars, and the tobacco companies are now selling cigarettes that resemble “5 gum” and other candy products, often catching the youthful eye.

He included a picture of a retailer in Norwood that sold their tobacco products conveniently right above the cases of soda and on the counter instead of behind the counter.

He pointed out some of the recent actions being considered in other areas of New York, helping the efforts to limit tobacco usage.

“There are some things that municipalities can do to address the issue. It’s not for me to decide, but I wanted to get you at least make you aware of the issue, make a note of it. It’s a little bit of an issue, especially in Norwood. You don’t really have an issue here in Norfolk, but we didn’t have an issue with (Norwood’s) retailers two years ago. It’s one of those things that continues to creep up,” Mr. Todd said.

“In Albany County, the county legislature is considering tobacco free pharmacies, which would exclude pharmacies from those retailers that have a tobacco license. In Massachusetts, they’ve already done that in 63 jurisdictions. So most of the state is covered by that. ... Another thing that comes up is zoning, saying that you can’t have a tobacco retailer within 500 feet of a school,” he said.

Other than the issues of young people becoming addicted to tobacco and marketing’s role in that, Mr. Todd also discussed the very high amount of money spent on health care directly caused by tobacco.

“The other issue that I think is important for the board to understand is the monetary costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses. Annually, New York state spends about $8 billion a year to treat these illnesses,” Mr. Todd explained.

The board will be considering Mr. Todd’s arguments and suggestions, and will be discussing them further at their next meeting in August.

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