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Majority at hearing favor smoking ban on St. Lawrence County property

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CANTON — A majority of people who spoke at a public hearing Monday favored a proposed law that St. Lawrence County ban smoking on its property.

The use of tobacco products on all property owned or leased by the county including county buildings, beach and shoreline areas, playing fields, parks, picnic areas, hiking trails and other recreational areas would be prohibited under the proposal.

The law would prohibit people from smoking in their vehicles on county property but it would exempt smoking in a privately owned motor vehicle that was entering or leaving county property. It would also exempt county roads and forests, except for multiuse trails.

Linda Curry thought the law goes too far.

“Where does it stop?” she said. “I just think people have a right to make their individual choices and I don’t think the county wants to get into this mess.”

Unhealthy food might be next on the county list of things to ban, according to Ms. Curry, an acknowledged smoker.

Thomas L. Jenison criticized details within the proposed law. He objected to 20 feet being a reasonable distance to ban smoking within entrances and exits, especially since the public sidewalk in front of the county courthouse belongs to the village of Canton, not the county.

“Intent, I think, is fine,” he said. “To me, this law can’t be enforced. It’s going to be thrown out.”

But nearly 10 others who spoke applauded legislators, who have not yet scheduled a vote, on considering the law.

Incremental steps such as bans encourage smokers to quit, speakers said.

Leila R. Thurston, a smoker for 40 years, said she quit four years ago because it was too difficult to find a place to light up.

“It made me mad because I didn’t want to be restricted, but you can’t fight city hall,” she said. “The writing is on the wall. You might as well quit now.”

Some people urged the ban for the safety of others and to cut medical expenses.

About 70 percent of county residents do not smoke, Benjamin J. Gruda, president of the Board of Health, said.

“These people shouldn’t be jeopardized by those who do smoke,” he said. “We’re not breaking new ground on this.”

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