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St. Lawrence County may start no smoking policy

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is expected to vote Monday on whether to proceed with a smoking prohibition on its property.

“I think we ought to have a policy on no smoking,” said Legislator Scott M. Sutherland, R-Pierrepont. “Many see it as a test for personal rights, but it’s a huge health concern for our residents. We’re not looking for new things to regulate, but smoking is bad for people.”

The county ranks 58 out of 62 in state health rankings. It has a tobacco use rate of 27 percent compared with the state rate of 19 percent, said Benjamin R. Todd, county tobacco program coordinator.

The issue is the county’s business because smoking, secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco and the diseases associated with them are a strain on health care and the amount of money the county spends on Medicaid, Mr. Sutherland said.

If legislators approve, the county Board of Health would write a law that would prohibit tobacco use on all real property owned or leased by the county. The law then would come back to the Legislature for approval.

Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, said she is not among those supporting the law.

“I really have a problem when they say someone can’t smoke in their own car. It has to do with my belief in individual rights,” she said. “The plan is going to come back to the board. Maybe it’ll go through. Maybe it won’t.”

Only five other counties in the state have adopted laws prohibiting smoking on their property, Mrs. Brothers said.

Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, said he became convinced of the rightness of the prohibition during the debate at a recent committee meeting.

“A lot of other places don’t allow it on the property,” he said. “Smoking is about the worst thing you can do to yourself. It’s something to try to provide discouragement.”

Inmates at the county jail have not been allowed to smoke since 2001, although the staff has been able to smoke outside on the grounds.

How the new policy would be enforced and whether there would be penalties have not been worked out yet.

Mrs. Brothers said she did not like the idea of anyone being turned in if they were seen smoking.

Mr. MacKinnon said that he did not think enforcement would be a big factor but that a prohibition instead would act more as a way to change attitudes.

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