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The Board of Health voted on implementing the new tobacco regulations after a brief public hearing on Monday night. Seated are secretary Dianne Hein, John Meaney Jr., Dr. Richard Moresi, Brendon Bullett and Health Inspector Manuel Serrano.

North Adams Board Votes For Tough Tobacco Regulations

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health has adopted a rigorous ban on workplace smoking that will include lighting up at city-sponsored events like the annual Eagle Street Beach Party.

The board on Monday night voted unanimously to implement the new regulations effective Jan. 1, 2013, after a brief public hearing attended by a half-dozen or so residents, mostly young parents.

The rules encompass tobacco-free workplaces — prohibiting any smoking or use of so-called e-cigarettes on public property or in public vehicles, near food establishments, in parks, outdoor seating such as at restaurants, or during city-sponsored events. A second regulation targets underage smoking or tobacco use through any "nicotine delivery system," many of which can be can currently be obtained, with requirements for compliance, signage and penalties.

"This right here is a huge win for the city," said James J. Wilusz, director of public health for the Tri-Town Health Department, which covers Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge. "It's just a reflection of the leadership."

Wilusz has been working with the Board of Health through a grant from the state Department of Public Health on developing the regulations, which are modeled on rules in other towns around the county and existing state statutes. Tri-Town's 20-year-old tobacco awareness program also includes Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Hancock, Monterey, Sandisfield, Otis and Pittsfield.

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Health Inspector Manuel Serrano said the board had been working to this point for about a year. Members were particularly struck by a presentation Wilusz had given on the different ways that tobacco companies are merchandising their products, especially to children.

"It was just mind blowing," said Serrano, describing a smokeless tobacco product similar to Tic Tacs.

Wilusz said the city had one of the highest rates of smoking, at 20 percent, compared to the state average of 14 percent of the population, and the highest for teens.

According to the Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership, smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in the state. Wilusz said more than 1,200 people in the United States die every day from smoking related causes but that two start for every death.

"If we're going to move toward a more healthier community, tobacco is one of the top priorites," he said, commending the board for taking action.

Lynnette Bond of Holbrook Street said her concern was over her young children, especially her 1-year-old who "has become interested in finding every cigarette butt available."

"I'm so sick of coming to the playgrounds and seeing people smoke all the time, and flicking their cigarettes," said Bond. "It became a major issue for me."

She found like-minded parents at the Family Resource Center and while discussing what could be done, learned about Monday's public hearing. Bond said she'd put out a quick Facebook post that garnered nearly two dozen likes and met with some parents at a playgroup well, coming up with a petition she submitted to the board.

Amy Hall, director of the Family Resource Center, said her organization supports a ban on smoking, especially at parks and playgrounds. 

"We hear from parents all the time," she said. "We actually arrange where we're going to do things according to where there's less smoking."

Another mother said she wouldn't take her children back to the Eagle Street Beach Party because of people dropping ashes and putting out cigarettes in the sand next to the children.

"That's been our main concern," said Serrano. "We've seen it at a lot of the events ... as a former smoker, I'm guilty. But it's wrong and we need to protect our children and we need to protect ourselves."

He cautioned that the rules would not go into effect until next year, giving everyone enough time to understand and come into compliance. The city could post no-smoking signs during events this summer, but without the regulations, there would be "no teeth" to make it enforceable, said Serrano.

Tags: smoking awareness,   tobacco regulations,   

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