No more Marlboros on the merry-go-round or Kools in the spray pool. It’s the law.
City lawmakers Thursday night voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking around Albany’s outside recreational areas, including playgrounds and ball fields, in hopes of limiting kids’ exposure to deadly second-hand smoke and setting a better example for youngsters before they pick up the habit.
The 13-1 vote came after County Health Commissioner Dr. James Crucetti enthusiastically endorsed the prohibition, calling prevention a key tool for stemming the tide of smoking-related deaths.
“There is no public health issue that is more important than preventing our youth from becoming addicted to tobacco,” Crucetti told the Common Council, adding that tobacco-related illnesses claim about 500 lives annually in the county.
The measure, which was backed by the state-funded Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition, passed without debate — though one longtime resident, Doris Coles, said she feared the ban would eventually spread to include all city parks, robbing citizens of the freedoms they pay taxes to enjoy.
“Let the people live,” Coles, a non-smoker, said. “Let us be free and we will all enjoy our freedom.”
After the vote, Councilman Frank Commisso Jr., the lone opponent, said he viewed controlling city spending and residents’ rising tax bills as more pressing matters.
“We’re fighting a problem that doesn’t exist,” Commisso said. “I don’t see anybody in parks exhaling smoke in children’s faces.”
The ordinance’s chief sponsor, Councilman James Sano, rejected the idea that the council was neglecting more serious business. He said protecting public health, especially among children, is one of government’s most important jobs.
“It is the role of government to watch out for people,” said Sano, a retired physical education teacher.
Sano acknowledged the importance of personal responsibility when it comes to making healthy choices but said, unlike poor eating habits, the decision to smoke directly affects the health of others.
Councilman Anton Konev, said he wants his future children to be able to enjoy city playgrounds without cigarettes’ pollution — in the air or on the ground.
“I don’t want my kids to be playing with butts while they’re playing in the sandbox,” Konev said. “They don’t have a choice to walk away.”