Smoking Outside: PA Quakertown

Pennsylvania Quakertown could ban smoking in its parks.

Quakertown Borough Passes Smoking Ban
WFMZ-TV Online – Allentown,PA,USA
Quakertown’s parks are now officially smoke-free. The Bucks County borough passed a smoking ordinance at last night’s council meeting. …

Smoking ban idea takes heat

By CHRISTOPHER RUVO, The Intelligencer

QUAKERTOWN – Dave Wilsey calls himself a “bonehead.”

The former Quakertown councilman says he knows it is somewhat foolish to go on smoking cigarettes when it’s clear the habit could kill him. While Wilsey, like many others, wants to quit, he doesn’t want his former colleagues telling him — or anyone else — that they can’t light up in borough parks.

On Monday, he urged borough council to drop plans for banning smoking in Quakertown’s parks.

“It’s a nice, righteous idea to help boneheads like me…but where does this stop?” he said. “It used to be that responsible citizens went to the park to smoke,” rather than light up in their homes or indoor public places.

Councilman Ed Scholl, a cancer-prevention activist, said the evidence linking cigarettes to cancer is incontrovertible and that secondhand smoke damages those who don’t have the habit. He’d like to see an anti-smoking law instituted in time for this May’s Relay for Life, a cancer fundraising event held annually in Memorial Park.

“I don’t want smokers congregating around the kids,” said Scholl, a Republican who began his first term in office this January. “I want to set a healthy social model in the parks.”

Council plans to draft an ordinance outlawing smoking and possibly vote on it by late April.

Councilman Dave Zaiser said he’d like to see a compromise that sets up smoking and nonsmoking areas.

“I hate it when people throw their cigarette butts into the woodchips at Panther Playground,” Zaiser said. “But if people want to walk their dog in the park and have a cigarette, I just have a problem with (banning) that.”

Councilwoman Michele Scarborough also favored designating some smoking areas. “I’d like to see a compromise that keeps it away from the kids,” she said.

Scholl struck the analogy of the night when he said that having a nonsmoking area in the park would be as ridiculous as having a “peeing” area in the Quakertown Pool. Invariably, what is done in one place, will spill over and affect the other, he reasoned. A total ban on smoking is needed to eliminate the potential health effects of secondhand smoke, he said.

Wilsey said the ban would be difficult to enforce and he worried that police would be burdened with complaint calls.

“People are going to be calling 911 to say, “There’s someone smoking in the park!’ Our police have more important things to do than be called out for this,” Wilsey said.

Councilman Michael Johnson said Doylestown Township, where he is a police officer, already bans smoking in parks. Enforcing the ban does not interfere with police officers doing their jobs, Johnson said.

“We’ll handle the most important call first,” he said.

Council President Jim Roberts said nixing smoking in parks would make it easier to enforce a law enacted last year that prohibits minors from using any tobacco products in much of the Upper Bucks borough.

The proposal to ban smoking comes from the Upper Bucks Relay For Life, a cancer activism group of which Scholl is a former chairman. Current Chairwoman Julie Williams urged council to approve the ban to support the fight against cancer.

Quakertown considers smoking ban
February 25, 2008
Quakertown could ban smoking in its parks.
Borough Council will consider a proposal tonight that would make it illegal to light up anywhere in the Upper Bucks town’s 140 acres of parkland.
Some council members are already keen on the idea.
“Cigarettes are a cancer cocktail,” said Councilman Ed Scholl, a Republican. “We’re not trying to take away your right to smoke, we’re just asking you for the hour or two you are in the park to set a good example for the kids and not light up.”
Council probably wouldn’t vote to institute the prohibition until April at the earliest, but it seems likely the seven non-smoking members would support it, said Council President Jim Roberts.
“My guess is that this would pass,” said Roberts.
The proposed smoking ban comes from the Upper Bucks Relay for Life, a cancer activism group. The group holds fundraising relays at Memorial Park, the borough’s biggest recreation area. Smoking is prohibited at the events.
The relay committee’s Chairwoman Julie Williams and Scholl, a former chairman and current cancer activist, thought it would make sense to make the ban permanent at all parks, year round.
“Our mission is not only to raise funds for cancer, but to raise awareness and to fight what causes it,” said Williams, a Center Valley resident who grew up in Quakertown. “We want people to know that smoking causes cancer.”
A spokesman for a national smokers’ rights group panned the proposed prohibition.
“When you ban smoking within city limits or within public places like this, where you have all kinds of other emissions from other sources, you can not argue it’s being done for secondhand smoke or other worries,” said George Koodray of Smokers Club Inc., a group that supports the rights of smokers.
“The motivation for this is basically someone saying, “I don’t like your behavior’ and the question becomes where does the government’s role in protecting us from ourselves end?”
Americans For Non-Smokers Rights, an anti-smoking advocacy group, relates that 262 towns and cities across the nation have specified that all parks or some parks within their borders must be smoke free.
Quakertown Borough Manager/Police Chief Scott McElree said a ban in Quakertown, a borough of about 9,000 people, would help cut down on litter and vandalism at Memorial, Main Street and Cedar Grove parks.
“Our crews are constantly cleaning up cigarette butts,” said McElree. “Plus, there is damage to park property with people burning the benches and the tables with their cigarettes.”
Michael J. McFadden, director of the Pennsylvania Smokers Action Network, said a ban can’t be justified on the grounds that some smokers litter.
“If you’re going to ban smoking from parks on the basis of litter, eating and drinking — at least when such activities involve any sort of possibly disposable container — should be banned as well,” McFadden said.
Quakertown already prohibits smoking at the borough-run community pool and in borough hall.
Last year, the town enacted an ordinance that bars minors from using any tobacco products within borough limits, including streets, sidewalks, alleys, traffic ways, highways and public right of ways.
Roberts said outlawing smoking in parks for minors and adults would make it easier to enforce the tobacco ban for teens.
“When an officer sees a group of younger people he can’t always tell who is18 and who isn’t just by looking,” said Roberts. “So now if there is no smoking allowed at all he will be able to approach them and take care of things.”
The council president said getting caught lighting up in a park could cost up to $50 plus the cost of prosecution, the same fine currently levied by the minors smoking ban. “We haven’t discussed this yet, but the fines wouldn’t be anything Draconian,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that 45.3 million Americans are cigarette smokers, according to a November 2007 report. That’s 20.8 percent of the nation’s population.
The American Cancer Society claims cigarette smoking is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths. It accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.
Christopher Ruvo can be reached at 215-538-6371 or

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