Healthy decision

Published 8:29 am Tuesday, April 16, 2013

AHOSKIE – Town officials here are joining a national movement to ban the use of tobacco products on municipally owned property.

With one lone exception, those indulging in tobacco products will be prohibited from enjoying their habit on property owned by the Town of Ahoskie, as decided Tuesday by members of the town council at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

The ban, which was put into place immediately, impacts all town-owned property with the exception of the Ahoskie Amphitheater. However, tobacco use is prohibited at the adjoining Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex.

Council members voted 5-0 in favor of the ban following a motion from Linda Blackburn, seconded by Winfred Hardy.

“We have had a request from the Hertford County Health Department as well as from some of the council members and parents of children involved in our youth recreation programs to take a look at modifying our no smoking policy,” Town Manager Tony Hammond told the board.

Hammond reminded council members of their adoption of a no smoking policy two to three years ago that was limited to town-owned buildings frequented on a regular basis by the public.

“It wasn’t adopted to cover all of our buildings,” Hammond said. “It covered the town hall, police department, fire department, and recreation department. It did not impact the public works building or the wastewater treatment plant because they are areas that are very seldom frequented by the public.”

Hammond said it was the council’s choice to expand the existing policy to cover all town-owned buildings and grounds as well as vehicles owned by Ahoskie local government.

“Some of the biggest concerns are coming from the recreational areas,” Hammond stated.

He added that since the Ahoskie Recreation Department has elected to join a new governing league for youth baseball/softball, that league specifically prohibits the use of all tobacco products for both local and tournament competition. That rule applies to all field personnel, to include managers, coaches and umpires.

“If we’re going to do this smoking ban, I would suggest putting it in place in on all town-owned property,” Hammond noted. “The only area excluded is the amphitheater. That area is rented by groups for different events. We will leave it up to those groups whether or not they want to allow the use of tobacco products.”

Later, when asked by the News-Herald if the tobacco products ban would be enforced during Ahoskie Heritage Day (held annually at the amphitheater), Hammond said it would not.

Crystal Dempsey of the Hertford County Health Department attended Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We’d like to see this policy adopted because it affects our children,” Dempsey said. “We need to set healthy behaviors in their minds so as they grow up and they have kids they can inform them about making healthy choices in life.

“You have to also look at those who smoke, they drop their (cigarette) butts everywhere, particularly in the area where recreational activities are taking place,” Dempsey continued. “They have to be cleaned up. Plus, second-hand smoke is very dangerous. Passing this policy is another step towards making our environment tobacco-free and healthy.”

Hammond said the Hertford County Health Department will place signs at the town’s various facilities to post them as non tobacco use areas.

“I think this is a good idea; I’m just surprised that we didn’t have a more comprehensive policy at this point in time,” Blackburn stressed. “I agree, we need to set good, healthy examples for children. They are so impressible. We need to promote the fact that smoking is harmful to your health.”

“I thought we already had it (no smoking policy),” stated Hardy.

By their unanimous vote, the town’s existing policy will be modified to prohibit tobacco use within all town-owned buildings, to include work bays, garages, warehouses and vehicles. The policy applies to all town employees, contractors and the general public.

Tobacco use shall be permitted only at a reasonable distance (50 to 100 feet or more) outside any enclosed area to ensure that secondhand smoke does not enter those areas.

The policy also instructs department supervisors to discuss the issue of tobacco breaks with staff members.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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