City urged to ban smoking in parks


The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN – A non-profit organization has approached the Common Council about making the city’s parks “smoke free.”

Sue Arminio, coordinator of Amsterdam-based Project Action, addressed the council on Monday night at City Hall. She said city parks should be smoke free.

“The city of Johnstown could be a champion in health and in your community,” said Susan Arminio, coordinator of Amsterdam-based Project Action, addressing the council during its meeting Monday.

Project Action, which is headquartered at St. Mary’s Healthcare, is a partnership of people and organizations from Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties whose mission is to systematically reduce tobacco use in the three counties, its website says.

“We met with the mayor last year and thought it appropriate to talk about tobacco-free parks,” Arminio said.

She said if Johnstown banned smoking from its parks, it would be joining hundreds of municipalities that have already taken the same action.

“There is no constitutional or fundamental right to smoke,” Arminio said.

Children shouldn’t have to play in parks and be exposed to second-hand smoke and “poisonous” cigarette butts, she said.

The Project Action website discusses tobacco-free parks. The site says children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. It also notes cigarette litter is dangerous for children and bad for the environment, with 1.7 billion pounds of such litter accumulate in the environment every year

The site also claims cigarette butts can ooze out chemicals such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic; butts can take up to 25 years to biodegrade, children model adult behavior, and smoking at parks and playgrounds gives children the impression that it is a safe and healthy behavior.

Arminio said if the council passes a law, it will be similar to leash ordinances for parks. She claimed 86 percent of Fulton County residents favor tobacco-free playgrounds.

She told the council that Project Action has a template for a local law that could make city parks smoke free. It is designed after a resolution passed in 2011 in Glens Falls. That law levies a $200 fine and up to 15 days in jail for a person caught smoking in a park.

Arminio said the city could put up “Tobacco Free Zone” signs Project Action can provide and the city can look at indoor restrictions, as well.

The council took no action and did not hold any discussion after Arminio’s comments.

“I’m sure the council will consider all of these things,” Mayor Sarah?Slingerland told her.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at