By Wenhao Ma
Huntington legislators want to clear the air.
Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), joined by Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), announced new legislation, on July 14, that would prohibit smoking on athletic fields across Huntington Town.
Smoking in town parks and beaches has been banned for years — but athletic fields have not been specifically addressed in any town laws. The new legislation, according to Spencer’s office, is a response to residents who have expressed concerns about being exposed to secondhand smoke at sporting events.
Daniel Stratton is one of those concerned residents, and he brought the proposed code amendment to Cuthbertson’s attention.
“I noticed some of my children’s coaches leaving the dugout to smoke a cigarette just outside the fence of the field,” Stratton said in an email. “Aside from this being an obviously unhealthy behavior to model for the children, it seemed very counterintuitive when we are trying to get our children outside to be active and healthy.
“Even a child becoming conditioned to see cigarettes out in public or out at a ball field has an impact. [The legislation] is something that in the long term will save lives.”
— William Spencer
Stratton, who is a former health teacher, said he started researching laws and regulations for smoking at athletic fields and that is how he got involved with Cuthbertson.
“I discovered [there] was already a ban at Huntington beaches and playgrounds and I saw that this was spearheaded by Councilman Cuthbertson. So I contacted him to find out if there was already a law that encompassed [athletic fields] and if not, how I could pursue a resolution to this situation,” he said.
According to the legislation, no person shall smoke a tobacco product, herbal product, marijuana, cigarette, electronic cigarette, pipe, cigar, vapors, e-liquids or other legal marijuana derivatives in an outdoor playground or athletic field that is town-owned property.
Cuthbertson said the legislation is meant to keep the lungs of Huntington resident’s as safe as possible.
“The goal of my legislation is to protect residents and their families from the health concerns related to secondhand smoke,” he said in a statement. “If passed, this will extend my smoking legislation to include playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields.”
Cuthbertson’s proposal is seen as the result of the cooperation between the Town of Huntington and the Suffolk County Legislature.
In 2012, the county legislature passed a law restricting smoking in county parks and beaches to parking facilities only. Smoking on county-owned athletic fields was also prohibited. But county laws do not apply to town properties, which leaves smoking on town athletic fields untouched.
Spencer thanked Cuthbertson for drafting the new legislation, which he called “a bold step” in helping to reduce the rate of smoking among the youth and ensuring clean air for all who visit the town’s sports fields.
“Everything counts,” Spencer said in a statement. “Even a child becoming conditioned to see cigarettes out in public or out at a ball field has an impact. [The legislation] is something that in the long term will save lives.”
According to the American Lung Association, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds and at least 69 of the chemicals are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke is also toxic, and causes more than 41,000 deaths per year. ALA’s website says more than 24 million children in the U.S. have been exposed to second-hand smoke, and it is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age.
“As a practicing pediatric ear, nose, and throat physician, protecting residents from the dangers of tobacco is a cause near and dear to my heart,” Spencer said. “This is why I stand here with my colleagues on the town level to advocate for these measures.”
A public hearing on this resolution is scheduled at a town board meeting on Aug. 16.