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St. Lawrence County smoking ban moves forward

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CANTON — A smoking ban on St. Lawrence County property is on track to become law despite the reluctance of some legislators to tell people they cannot light up a cigarette in their cars.

“What you do in your privately owned car is your business,” Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, said.

The board’s Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 9-4, with two legislators absent, to send the proposed local law on to the full board, which meets Monday.

“The purpose of the law is to make a healthier environment for everybody,” Legislator Gregory M. Paquin, D-Massena, said.

Under the provisions of the law, 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. 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 also would exempt county roads and forests, except for multiuse trails.

The county’s cost for health care is more than $20 million annually. It also pays a share of Medicaid costs for residents who contract diseases connected to smoking.

The county can at least control what happens on its own property, Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, said.

“I’m tired of paying for somebody else’s health care problems,” he said.

Some legislators objected to the law as being unenforceable, but others said they expected an honor system to prevail.

“Realistically, there is going to be no enforcement,” Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said. “It’s a voluntary thing. That’s what you rely on.”

The Public Health Department has been working on a smoking cessation program it can offer to employees. If people do not want to quit, the program might also include ways people can get through the day, said Benjamin R. Todd, program coordinator of the county Tobacco Free Community Partnership,

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