State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, a physician, praised Ulster County today for its work in creating smoke-free outdoor public areas. Twenty-three of the 24 municipalities in the county either have adopted or plan to pass laws or regulations that restrict smoking in public-recreation areas.
Shah made a stop in Rosendale, Ulster County, today to discuss the issue as part of his visits to six counties this week, which is National Public Health Week.
“By prohibiting tobacco use in public outdoor areas such as parks, playgrounds, and beaches, Ulster County is making great progress toward its goal of becoming the healthiest county in the state,” Shah said in a statement. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, which is a danger even in outdoor areas. Children exposed to even small amounts of secondhand smoke are at heightened risk for adverse health effects.”
Shah said Ulster County is a leader in protecting people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. “This is occurring in large part as a result of county and local leadership and a strong partnership with the Tobacco Free Action Coalition,” he said.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of sickness and death in New York and the United States. New York’s annual health-care costs associated with treating diseases caused by smoking total roughly $8 billion, according to the state Health Department. Lost productivity costs related to smoking are more than $6 billion a year. Nearly 18 percent of adults in New York smoke; about 12 percent of students in high school do, the agency said.
A Tobacco free outdoor policy ensures that our children are not subjected to secondhand smoke and that playgrounds are not littered with cigarette butts,” said Ellen Reinhard, director of the Tobacco Free Action Coalition of Ulster County. “It also helps de-normalize tobacco use, which encourages adults to quit and helps prevent youth from ever starting.”
If the current rates of smoking continue, nearly 400,000 children in New York ultimately will die from smoking-related diseases, said Dr. La Mar Hasbrouck, director of public health for the county.