ONEONTA, N.Y.-- It may soon be illegal to light up in an Oneonta public park.
After a public hearing Tuesday night yielded no protest from residents, the city council was able to send their proposal for smoke-free parks to the mayor's desk for approval.
Though smoking is currently banned in the playground areas, city lawmakers say the current laws allow smoking in other portions of the parks where large, public events are often held. Their proposal would ban the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, in public parks.
"It's important for quality of life," Russell Southard Jr., councilor for the sixth ward said. "We have a lot of great events in the parks, in Muller Plaza, so I think that it will enhance the experience when you're there."
Anti-smoking advocates say tobacco in public parks poses bigger problems than a smell unpleasant to some.
"There is no safe level of secondhand smoke for children or adults, but also the litter," Linda Wegner, the program director for Advancing Tobacco Free Communities – Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie Counties (ATFC) said. "The number one form of litter worldwide is cigarette butts and it's here."
Councilors say they received some complaints about the proposal, but claim most of the feedback was positive.
"I got a little bit early on when it first came out, maybe a little overreach," Southard said. "A lot of people supported it."
"I think it's better for the environment and for people's health," Stephanie McMullen, a parkgoer said. "I'm not a smoker, but I still think that it's better all-around."
"Right here in Otsego County, the smoking rate is 26 percent, compared to New York state where it's 14 percent," Deyanira Cisneros, the community engagement coordinator for ATFC said. "We are just trying to promote health in our communities."
The mayor is expected to approve the proposal in the next few weeks.
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