Smoke Free coalition asks Albion town to go tobacco-free

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2013 at 12:00 am

The leader of a three-county tobacco prevention program asked Albion town officials to reinstate a no-smoking policy on town property.

The town follows a state law, banning smoking inside a public building, but Albion allows it outside on town property and inside highway vehicles.

Kevin Keenan, program coordinator of Smoke Free NOW, addressed the Town Board on March 11, asking the town officials “to send a strong message to the community about community health.”

Town Supervisor Dennis Stirk said a no-smoking policy would be unenforceable because of all the people who attend court on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We can’t control court people,” Stirk told Keenan. “You’re going to have people smoking in the parking lot.”

Councilman Tim Neilans made a motion for the board to reverse a decision from last year. Neilans said smoking should be banned on all town property, including highway trucks.

Highway Superintendent Jed Standish objected, saying he would be targeted with that policy.

“You’re isolating me from everybody else,” he said. “You’re remodifying it to me.”

But Neilans persisted, saying the truck is town property and Standish could have passengers who would be subjected to the smoke.

Standish said he always drives by himself. Kennan interjected that many towns have banned smoking inside municipal-owned vehicles because employees change over time. Kennan’s group works in Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties and is funded by the state Department of Health.

Smoke Free would pay for no-smoking signs on town property, and Keenan said the group could have staff at court, offering smoking cessation programs.

“Seventy percent of smokers want to quit,” he said.

Keenan and his organization were called “the tobacco Nazis” by resident Jake Walters.

The board could pass a policy that allowed people to smoke in their personal vehicles, while banning smoking in public places, Keenan suggested. Neilans said that would be acceptable to him, but he was adamant there shouldn’t be smoking in town trucks.

Councilman Dan Poprawski said he supported a smoking ban, but not in the town truck. However, when it was time to vote on the resolution, banning smoking in the trucks and all town property, Poprawski, Neilans and Passarell all voted in favor of it.

With the three votes in place, Stirk said the issue should be tabled a month so it could be studied more.

Neilans and Passarell said the resolution shouldn’t be tabled when it already had three votes. But town attorney Robert Roberson said a tabled motion takes precedence.

Resident Gary Katsanis suggested Passarell and Councilman Jake Olles meet before the next meeting to draft the language for the policy, which board members agreed would be helpful.

“You need to write up a resolution so you know what you’re voting on,” Katsanis said.