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Northborough Moves Toward Smoke-Free Town

Nortborough, which has a very low population of smokers to begin with, is moving toward officially banning smoking in or near municipal buildings and properties.

It may be more difficult for smokers in Northborough to light one up in the near future, as the Board of Health is considering changes to tobacco laws in town.

A public meeting will likely be held in June, according to Health Agent Jamie Terry, to discuss revamped policies on smoking on municipal properties in Northborough. The policy, which is still being fine-tuned by the board, will also address penalties and regulations for businesses that sell tobacco.

The policy, as it is written in draft form now, proposes to ban smoking in public areas that are municipally owned, such as the Senior Center, Fire Department, Police Department, the library, sports fields and parks.

Terry says that 88 percent of Northborough residents are non-smokers, and the policy would be to protect those people.

"We want smoking prohibited in areas where the 88 percent could be negatively impacted," said Terry. "And this is the way we feel it protects those populations."

Schools wouldn't be affected by the change in policy, because smoking is already prohibited on school properties. Originally, Terry said, the board discussed adding a private club enactment. The board "may still move forward with that," but the only private club in town is the American Legion, which has already voted to go smoke-free.

"We're not trying to punish smokers," said Terry. "We are just trying to protect the 88 percent. We're not interested in telling an adult what they can and cannot do. We are trying to protect the public that is going to be in public and subjected to the smoke."

Many years ago, added Terry, before a majority of people who now work at the Town Hall were even hired, the municipal union voted to go smoke-free. That means, "if you're a town employee, you can't be a smoker." Northborough is the only New England town that has this rule.

"It meant you can't smoke in your life, not just at your work," said Terry. "The unions agreed to it and it elminated smoking among town employees."

The idea of banning tobacco sales in pharmacies came up in discussion, but the board decided not to pursue that at this time. The board is, however, debating on penalties for those stores who are caught selling to minors.

As it is now, a store that sells to a minor now has a 12-month probation period. If a "second strike" occurs within that 12 months, the store gets a penalty of no tobacco sales for seven days and a $200 fine. On a third offense, the business loses its tobacco license.

"We're proposing to go from a 12-month to a 24-month period of probation," said Terry.

Stores are overseen in Northborough by teh Worcester Regional Tobacco Coalition, which conducts spot checks at local businesses, and reports offenses to Terry if they occur.

At Tuesday's board meeting, member Glenn French voiced opposition to the 24-month probation period, suggesting that it is too strict of a penalty for a first offense. There is a rapid turnover of new employees, sometimes, he says, and the penalty would punish the owner unnecessarily.

Terry says she hopes the tobacco laws are fine-tuned in time to have a public meeting in June, and would be enacted July 1 of this year.

FF May 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Oh Really?... Let me see if I understand this. If you are a town employee you can not smoke on public land? I guess I'll have to snap a picture or two.of town employees smoking and send it to our DPW Mgr. Does this include vehicles used for town business? As a bonus maybe I'll be lucky enough to catch someone smoking while they are illegally dumping their household trash into dumpsters.
Chris L. May 17, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I'm a non-smoker, but I think we're going too far here. If smokers stay in their designated area and don't blow smoke on me, who am I to say no? Government regulation of what we ingest is getting a little intrusive. Where is the personal sense of responsibility in America? Don't quot smoking because the government says its bad for you and makes it inconvenient. Quit smoking because its just the right thing to do for your personal health.
Jonik May 18, 2012 at 05:50 PM
"Banning tobacco"? Such a phrase indicates basic ignorance about cigarettes. Any number of cigarettes may contain absolutely no tobacco but, instead, "tobacco substitute material"' made in US Patented ways from all sorts of industrial waste cellulose...including paper, wood chips, corncobs, coffee bean hulls, peanut shells, and many kinds of agricultural waste. Government regulators, serving the interests of the cigarette cartel, do not require labeling of that...nor do they require labeling of any non-tobacco cigarette ingredients.....such as residues of any of 450 or so pesticides registered for this use, addiction-enhancing substances, artificial sweeteners and sugars, radiation (!) from some fertilizers, flavorings, burn accelerants, and any of the roughly 1400 untested, non-tobacco additives that cigarette makers select from to concoct their secret recipes. Officials, falling over each other to feign "concern" for health, even allow cigarettes to contain dioxin-producing chlorine pesticide residues and chlorine-bleached paper...without a word of warning. It's as if they never heard of Agent Orange. By blaming and penalizing the primary victims and by scapegoating the un-patented, public-domain, natural tobacco plants, they protect the cigarette makers, their ingredient suppliers, and all of their insurers and investors. Complicit industries are to be protected from what could be unprecedented liability suits. Search up "Fauxbacco" for more.

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