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Smoking Ban Could Expand in Ridgewood

Proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking on sidewalks in front of school buildings.

A majority of the council was against a proposed smoke ban on the sidewalk in front of Valley Hospital.
A majority of the council was against a proposed smoke ban on the sidewalk in front of Valley Hospital.

The Ridgewood Council is poised to introduce an ordinance expanding smoke free zones to the sidewalks surrounding village schools.

A policy came under consideration in early December, after a request from the Board of Education and Valley Hospital to ban smokers from the sidewalks surrounding their respective facilities.

Council members had several concerns with the requests during their first discussion of the policy, soliciting a presentation from advocacy group Global Advisors for Smokefree Policy, which also lobbied the council before its approval of an ordinance last year banning smoking in public parks.

Alan Kantz, speaking on behalf of GASP Wednesday night, did not identify direct precedents for the ordinance, but said there were similar policies in other municipalities for restricting tobacco use in proximity to school buildings.

“I think we’re just on the cutting edge of something popular and fairly common,” Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck said.

Councilman Tom Riche said he was opposed to the restrictions, citing concerns about the encroachment of personal rights and that the ordinance would be unenforceable.

“We don’t have the resources to enforce this and my concern would be that this is the first step in opening a Pandora’s box,” he said.

While the other four on the dais supported the ban on sidewalks surrounding the schools, Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli and Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh balked at a smoke ban along the sidewalk in front of the hospital, which disallows smoking on its campus and by its employees during shifts.

“I think we have to be very judicious about how we extend government power and regulate private activity,” Pucciarelli said. “It would be like using police power to enforce an employment policy.”

The ban along the hospital sidewalk was considered in part due to its location along the route to adjacent Benjamin Franklin Middle School, but Walsh speculated a ban would simply push smokers onto other nearby streets.

The ordinance, covering sidewalks touching upon board of education property, will be introduced by the council next week. 

skycat January 10, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Surely GASP is not oblivious to smoking bans frequently shifting smokers to adjacent areas. I suspect that this easily anticipated effect of the previous ban is part of an ongoing strategy to destroy any practical alternative areas for smokers to move to. Whatever happened to bans based on scientific evidence of harm to others? These people substitute science with the credibility of a shell game. Priding yourself for being on the "cutting edge of something popular and fairly common" of something this manipulative and destructive of individual freedoms does not speak well for government.
momofthree January 12, 2014 at 02:59 PM
Valley Hospital and Dr. Fishbein have no problem with the dust and other construction inhalants and debris on our sidewalks and fields for 10 years, but they are concerned about the smoke from a pack or two of cigarettes per day? I'm not in favor of smoking cigarettes in front of our schools or hospital, but let's be consistent with our policies please. And what's going to happen when the construction workers want to smoke on site?

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