No ban on park butts


By Patsy Nicosia

Smokers will still be able to light up in Cobleskill’s parks.
But maybe not for the reason they think.
Trustees Sandy MacKay and Carol McGuire voted in favor of the ban after a hearing on the law last Tuesday; Trustee Mark Galasso voted against it.
But because Mayor Mike Sellers was missing and Trustee Rebecca Thillet was out with a broken arm and surgery, there wasn’t a quorum and the 2-1 vote wasn’t enough to make the smoking change.
“I feel like an American again,” said Vanessa Ditchfield, a smoker who spoke against the ban.
Rural Three for Tobacco Free Communities and the youth-focused Reality Check first proposed the parks change in July, providing photos of cigarette butts collected from village parks, and explaining that even outside, second-hand smoke is dangerous—especially to kids.
Sentiment Tuesday was evenly divided.
Jacqueline Graffeo, a smoker who lives in Hammerstone Village, questioned TV footage that showed Veterans’ Memorial Park littered with cigarette butts, even going as far as to suggest the scene was staged.
“I do not throw my butts around,” Ms. Graffeo said. “I have never in eight years ever seen cigarette butts around that park. I’m a smoker, but I’m a responsible smoker. Please respect my civil rights. They talk about second-hand smoke…do I look like a murderer?”
Ms. Ditchfield lives in Seward, but works for the Office for the Aging, which runs a senior meal center in Golding Park ’s Teen Town .
“I feel I do have a right [to smoke there],” she said. “I’m an adult. So are the people in the meal site. I shouldn’t be stereotyped.”
John Marsh, another Cobleskill smoker, said smokers are being “knocked around pretty badly in the State of New York.”
“We’ve been reduced to standing outside in the rain and snow to have a cigarette. Kicked into the streets to do something completely legal. It’s time for these rabble-rousing doomsdayers to stop pushing us around,” he said.
John Jarvis was one of those who spoke in favor of the ban.
As a child, he said, he suffered from winter-long colds, only to realize, when he went to college, it was probably a reaction to his parents’ cigarette smoking.
“I disagree to those who say smoking doesn’t make you sick,” he said. “It made me sick for 19 years.”
John Sagendorf , a smoker, said the village has more important work issues to work on than banning smoking.
He also questioned enforcing the law.
“I believe this is feel-good legislation,” he said.
Penny Boyer, a registered nurse, and Roy Korn, a physician, however, said the law was long overdue.
“I’m all for it,” Ms. Boyer said. “Smoking has caused so much misery in everyone’s lives.”
Dr. Korn said many of his smoking patients have confided to him they’re grateful for the ban in places like restaurants because it helps keep them away from their cigarettes.
Mr. Galasso, the only one of the trustees speaking against the ban, said he’s never smoked.
But he called the ban “another example of political correctness gone amuck.
“It comes back to personal freedom,” he said. “If a product’s legal, it’s legal. If you can’t prove it causes harm [through second-hand smoke] you can’t ban it.
“If the problem is litter [cigarette butts]…litter is illegal. We’re talking about another unenforceable law.”
Without a quorum, all three trustees would have needed to vote in favor of the smoking ban for it to have passed.
“We don’t know where the mayor is so we’re going to go ahead,” said Mr. MacKay, who’s also deputy mayor, at the start of the hearing.
Both Mayor Sellers and Ms. Thillet had expressed interest in the smoking ban.