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Seneca County hears public on smoking ban

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on a proposed local law to ban smoking on all county owned or leased property. A vote on the proposed law is scheduled for the board’s Sept. 27 meeting.At last night’s hearing, opponents acknowledgedsmoking’s health risks, but argued the issue is freedomof choice. Supporters cited the need to protect publichealth as overriding perceived individual rights.Dr. Timothy Ryan, medical director of the countyHealth Department and a member of the county Boardof Health, said the ban should be passed. He said Seneca County’s adult smoking rate is 29 percent, much higher than the state’s average of 15 to19 percent. Ryan cited the high cost of health care totaxpayers and sending a message to children thatsmoking is not acceptable as reasons for passing the law.Fayette resident James Mitchell, who quit smoking16 years ago, opposed the ban. He cited concerns as to the difficulty of enforcement and expressed a preference for more education of youth on the risks of smoking.Junius resident Gregory Wadhams also questioned enforcement. He asked if the ban applies to smoking inprivate vehicles in the parking lot and driving on countyroads, and asked if the law would be an issue fornegotiating union contracts. Dr. Jonathan Egan, a local physician, said smokers diean average of 14 years before non-smokers. He saidsmoking is the chief cause of preventable death, and aban would send the message that smoking is not normal or acceptable. He cited the health impacts on non-smokers from second-hand smoke, saying public health outweighs freedom of choice.Another county employee, Philip Snyder, also disagreedwith the ban. A smoker, he called it a freedom-of-choice argument, saying he feels like a criminalfor smoking. He said drinking and obesity also cause health problems and no one is asking for a ban onthem.A number of others spoke up in favor of and against the proposed law with various views on the issue. The board itself has been split on the issue making the outcome of a vote on Sept. 27 unclear.

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