The town of Clifton Park in southern Saratoga County has taken steps to keep cigarette butts and smoking out of public parks and trails.
The parks and trails in Clifton Park are now 100 percent smoke-free. An initiative was unanimously agreed upon at the May 15th town board meeting.
The measure introduced by Republican town supervisor Phil Barrett is intended to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke, reduce tobacco litter, and discourage residents from picking up the habit in areas the town promotes for healthy activities.
Supervisor Barrett said he spends a lot of time in the town’s parks and said, anecdotally, he doesn’t typically come across smokers.
“I’ve never seen anyone smoking; however, with our recent cleanup day we did find evidence,” said Barrett.
The evidence he’s referring to is cigarette butts.
The town is entering a partnership with the Living Tobacco-Free initiative at Glens Falls Hospital. The group says tobacco is the number one littered item in the world.
“So the evidence is there. The smoke leaves but the evidence remains behind in the form of these cigarette butts,” said Barrett.
The Living Tobacco-Free initiative is funded by the NY Bureau of Tobacco Control. Program coordinator Heather LaSalvia said the initiative can assist the town with signage, reaching out through the media, and working with local stakeholders to establish smoke-free zones.
“So when we create these smoke-free zones even the signs, when they see them going in, will change the social norm and make it less likely that they will become smokers when they are older,” said LaSalvia.
The state Tobacco Control Program began in 2000 and has been used to establish the state’s clean indoor air law. It has also been part of efforts to raise taxes on tobacco products — New York now has the highest — and has been used to enforce laws to restrict minors’ access to tobacco. It has also gone toward helping smokers quit.
The agency’s Reality Check brand has been used to reduce the impact of tobacco marketing on youth at the point of sale, as well as in traditional and social media.
Increasing local laws and policies to decrease smoking and second-hand smoke exposure is another one of its primary goals, says LaSalvia.
“So we need to do more to protect people to be able to breathe clean air, so these are the types of policies that kind of encourage that type of thing and help save lives in the long run.”
According to the state, treating illnesses linked to tobacco use costs New Yorkers $10.4 billion annually, of which Medicaid covers $3.3 billion.
Quitting smoking can decrease heart rate and blood pressure, improve circulation and lung function, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.