While some argue the smoking prohibition goes too far, others such as smokers like Corey Green of Rushville say they think it’s a good idea, for the health of smokers and nonsmokers alike.
Corey Green, 21, started smoking later than some do — about three years ago when he was 18. Working in the restaurant business, he found himself among other smokers and at break time, it was natural to step outside for a cigarette, he said. A cook at Eddie O’Brien’s Grille and Bar on South Main Street in Canandaigua, Green continues to take breaks with a smoke. But he advises against ever taking that first puff.
“The facts are clear, smoking is hazardous to your health,” said the Rushville resident who recalled as a kid giving his mom a hard time for smoking. Now, he understands what the term “hooked” means, he said. “I started smoking socially, now I feel it’s an addiction.”
Today marks the 10th anniversary of New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in public places including workplaces, bars, restaurants and bowling facilities.
While some argue the smoking prohibition goes too far, others such as smokers like Green say they think it’s a good idea, for the health of smokers and nonsmokers alike.
Joe “Fonzi” Alvaro, a Geneva resident who has been smoking more than 40 years, said when he got started at age 15 — egged on by an older sibling, he pretended to like it. “But I didn’t even care about it,” he said, recalling how he would take a few puffs for show and then, behind his sister’s back, “throw it down the sewer.”
“I wish I had never started,” said Alvaro. “I’d tell any kid — don’t smoke.”
As the state mark’s its first decade of the Clean Indoor Air Act, the challenge is still on how to spread the word about the dangers of smoking, particularly for the benefit of kids and teens.
"We protect our kids from many dangers and tobacco should definitely be one of them,” said Penny Gugino, coalition director for the Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes, a program of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.
“It puzzles me how a product (tobacco), that if used as intended, kills one of every three users and yet, is marketed so prominently and flashy behind thousands of store checkout counters across the country,” said Gugino. “Our kids are shouting, ‘we've seen enough,’” said Gugino. “Are the adults listening?”
Despite peer pressure and flashy tobacco advertising, teens are at times among those in the anti-smoking crusade. Last week, a group of teens with the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva gathered to make educational displays for the law’s 10th anniversary. Gugino said getting kids and teens involved is a good way to help get the word out.
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Mary Beer, public health director for Ontario County, said it is crucial to counter tobacco marketing. “Research tells us when children are frequently exposed to tobacco marketing displays they are more likely to begin smoking,” she wrote in an essay on the issue. “Tobacco displays are colorful and at eye level. They make cigarettes appear desirable, easy to obtain, and acceptable. For these reasons, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that tobacco companies be limited in the way they advertise to youth in the retail environment. Some stores and pharmacies in the Finger Lakes have proactively removed cigarettes from view. They should be applauded for having the best interest of our children at heart. Now, the rest of the region and state need to follow suit.”
Citing a survey of Ontario County’s high-school students in 2010-11, Beer stated 13 percent reported they had smoked within the previous 30 days; of twelfth graders, 21 percent were smokers. “In New York, there are currently 389,000 teens who will die prematurely as adults because they became addicted to nicotine as kids,” stated Beer. “Limiting retail advertising of tobacco products is something we can do for our kids today to preserve their health for the future.”
Snuffing it out
Nicole Larose works for the American Cancer Society, putting the word out about the dangers of smoking as a community mission manager covering several counties including Monroe, Wayne, Yates and Ontario counties. She has personal experience, too, that inspires her work. “I have had four relatives die from lung cancer as a result of smoking, so I am well aware of the dangers associated with tobacco use and second hand smoke,” she said. She is thankful, she said, for the passage of laws like the Clean Indoor Air Act.
Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke account for nearly one-third of cancer deaths, making those deaths preventable, said Larose.
Banning smoking in public areas is not telling smokers they can’t smoke, said Larose. “But we are asking them to please not smoke here. Non-smokers have a right to breathe clean air — especially our children, who are much more susceptible to the dangers associated with second-hand smoke.”
Dr. Bryan Henry is assistant professor of medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center and provides cardiology services through Finger Lakes Cardiology Associates in Canandaigua. "The passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act has had a substantial effect to reduce the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” Henry said in a statement. Despite all of the known risks of tobacco abuse, almost 12 percent of our youth still smoke and without continued focus, this epidemic will no doubt continue,” he stated. “In an era of cost containment, we must also not lose sight of the fact that every dollar invested towards prevention will come back to us many fold in the years to come. We must redouble our efforts to protect the young people of New York, and continue to strive towards a goal of making this a ‘smoke- free’ state.”
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