Health Commissioner Salutes Tompkins County Tobacco Control Efforts During National Public Health Week

ITHACA, N.Y. (April 6, 2009) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today presented a Public Health Excellence Award to the Tompkins County Health Department, the City of Ithaca, and Tobacco Free Tompkins for their collaborative efforts to protect New Yorkers against exposure to second-hand smoke. The commissioner's stop in Ithaca is part of his visits highlighting effective community public health efforts during National Public Health Week.

Commissioner Daines was joined by city, county and Tobacco Free Tompkins coalition leaders on a section of the downtown Ithaca Commons that would be designated "tobacco free" under a proposed city ordinance under consideration by the Common Council. Smoking would also be prohibited in outdoor dining areas on public property, at outdoor events on public property, and areas where children congregate, including public playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities open to the public.

State Health Commissioner, Richard F. Daines, M.D. said, "Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca are a great example of how a local partnership can help protect the health of residents through policies and regulations that create a more healthful environment. "Ending smoking in public areas protects residents against the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, gives smokers another reason to quit, and sends a powerful message to children that tobacco cannot be part of a healthy Tompkins County."

Caroline K. Peterson, Mayor of the City of Ithaca said, "This is a wonderful example of the City, the community, and our public health partners working together to make Ithaca a healthier city. Entry ways to City of Ithaca buildings are Tobacco-Free or T-Free Zones as are the entry ways to many businesses and agencies in the City. The city is now considering extending the T-Free Zone to areas on the Commons and in public parks or gathering areas."

Alice Cole, RN, M.S.E., Director of the Tompkins County Health Department, said, "It takes a community to build the foundation for a healthier America and a healthier city – the theme of this year's National Public Health Week. Smoke-free environments are the building blocks of that foundation which protect the health of community residents and support those who want to quit."

Ted Schiele, Coordinator for Tobacco Free Tompkins, said, "From the start of the T-Free Zone program, local businesses and employers of all types have welcomed the movement for smoke-free entry ways and outdoor areas. And you know it's a community-wide effort when you see T-Free Zone signs popping up in every corner of the County. The Ithaca Common Council members working on these regulations for smoke-free public areas are committed to public health goals, and their efforts will pay off for the City, the County and ultimately as a model for the whole state."

Tobacco Free Tompkins is one of 29 community partnerships statewide that have successfully worked to change the community environment to support the tobacco-free norm. The proposed Ithaca ordinance prohibiting smoking on certain outdoor public properties is one of several initiatives supported by Tobacco Free Tompkins. Other initiatives include:

  • Tobacco Free Housing: development of a public listing of non-smoking rental housing.
  • Tobacco Free Zones: voluntary commitments by numerous local businesses and organizations to implement Tobacco Free Zones near entryways and in other outdoor common areas.
  • Ithaca Common Council Resolution: urging tobacco retailers to reduce indoor and outdoor tobacco advertising and displays; prohibiting special tobacco promotions on city-owned or managed property; and prohibiting the city from accepting donations from tobacco manufacturers.
  • No Sponsorship Policies: adopted by local non-profit organizations refusing tobacco industry sponsorship, corporate giving, and product promotions.
  • Reduced Tobacco Ads: Voluntary commitments by several retailers to reduce or eliminate tobacco ads in their stores.
  • Tobacco Free Events: annual Chili Cook-Off community event designated smoke free.
  • Cessation Promotion: media campaigns and information on cessation resources, including referrals to the NYS Smokers Quitline.

The goal of the New York State Tobacco Control Program is to reduce the percentage of adolescents who smoke to less than 10 percent and the percentage of adults who smoke to less than 14 percent by 2010. In 2007 the prevalence of smoking in New York State was 13.8 percent for youth and 18.9 percent for adults.

The program also supports efforts to reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. In 2007 the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report stating "there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke." Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause between 22,700 and 69,600 premature deaths from heart disease and about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the United States.

Free assistance to stop smoking, including free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges for eligible smokers, is available from the New York Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or the Smokers' Quitsite at http://www.nysmokefree.com. For additional information about public health in Tompkins County, the Health Department's website is www.tompkins-co.org/health/.