Vote Expected On Extending Smoking Ban
Suffolk lawmakers last night were expected to vote on whether smokers should continue to be allowed to light up just outside tobacco-free county buildings and hospitals.
Legis. Angie Carpenter (R-West Islip) sponsored a bill to ban smoking within 50 feet of public entrances to buildings owned or leased by the county. The measure also would cover all hospitals in the county.
Carpenter, with support from anti-tobacco groups and health officials, said the legislation would address concerns about nonsmokers' exposure to secondhand smoke as they entered or exited public buildings.
"No one should have to walk through the smokescreenâ€ created by smokers just outside a building, Richard Couch, director of advocacy for Long Island for the American Cancer Society, said yesterday as he urged legislators to approve the bill.
But some smokers said they were being discriminated against, calling the brief exposure to environmental tobacco that a passerby might get more of an annoyance than any serious health threat.
Legis. Michael D'Andre (R-St. James) argued that outdoor smoke quickly dissipates. "It's outside,â€ he said.
"It is limited, I'll give you that,â€ Couch replied. But he added: "There is no safe level.â€
Carpenter said she was "pretty optimisticâ€ that her bill would pass at yesterday's meeting, which was expected to go late into the night. Her original bill, proposed June 5, would have created a 50-foot radius outside all street-level entrances; she recently modified it to apply only to public entrances.
Although Couch said the group was "not pleasedâ€ about the amendment limiting the bill to public entrances, he said, "The American Cancer Society is made up of realists.â€
According to the Berkeley, Calif.-based Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, at least 46 cities, counties and towns nationwide have adopted laws extending bans within certain distances outside smoke-free buildings.
In Hennepin County, Minn., a 15-yard smoke-free zone around county-owned facilities went into effect nearly a year ago. That legislation went as far as prohibiting smoking by county employees on the clock except for during lunch and other breaks.
But Audrey Silk, founder of a group called New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, spoke out against the bill at a public hearing in Suffolk in June. Also, officials at the tobacco company Philip Morris have said common courtesy is more effective than outdoor bans.
But County Health Commissioner Clare Bradley and representatives of the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society said secondhand smoke at any level was a health threat.
Also yesterday, residents told lawmakers about the "insidiousâ€ and "dangerousâ€ proliferation of outdoor lighting on Long Island, which they said ruins stargazing, damages the health of humans and animals, wastes energy, causes traffic accidents and may even worsen brown tide.
They spoke at a public hearing on a proposal by Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) to regulate most outdoor lighting so it shines downward, and to outlaw certain types, such as spotlights for advertising.
Michael Bilecki, an official with Fire Island National Seashore, said weekly stargazing events had to be canceled because constellations are too hard to see now. And Rose Cianchetti described a neighbor's flood light making its "incorrigible invasionâ€ into her Wading River home.
"The sharp beam continued through the entire night, relentlessly until dawn,â€ Cianchetti told legislators.
But Kenneth Greene, whose company, Magniflood, designs and manufactures outdoor lighting, said lawmakers need to carefully consider the technical issues of lighting and how well the law would truly work.
Robert Wieboldt of the Long Island Builders Institute questioned how it would be enforced.
"Are you going to have light cops?â€ he asked.
Also last night, the legislature was scheduled to consider granting an 8 percent operating increase to the North Ferry Co., which runs boats between Shelter Island and Greenport. An additional 13 percent requested increase to pay for a new, larger boat will be debated next month as part of another resolution.
If the operating increase is granted, rates will go from $7 to $8 one way and from $8 to $9.50 for a round-trip ticket.
Ferry officials begged the lawmakers to support the bill. Otherwise, by 2002, "We're simply going to run out of money,â€ said general manager Julie Ben-Susan.
Staff writer Valerie Burgher contributed to this story.