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McCandless officials stiffen penalty for smoking in parks

Tony LaRussa
| Sunday, June 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Smokers — including those who use electronic cigarettes — could get tossed from McCandless parks and be fined up to $300.

Town council has voted unanimously to ban smoking from its five recreation facilities: Wall Park, Vestal Field Complex and Trail, Devlin Park, Lorraine G. Rogers Soccer Field and the Vincentian Recreation Complex.

The new law is in response to an Allegheny County initiative called Young Lungs at Play, which aims to eliminate children's exposure to secondhand smoke, which is responsible for some 50,000 deaths nationwide each year, according to the non-profit organization Tobacco Free Allegheny.

According to the measure “…eliminating second hand smoke in town parks and playgrounds will help role model non-smoking behavior to children and youth and provide children, youth and their families with a safe, smoke-free environment.”

McCandless' new ordinance allows smoking only in park and playground parking lots.

Town manager Toby Cordek said the initial version of the measure called only for ejecting violators from facilities, but the recreation committee sought a stiffer penalty.

“Our police officers have discretion in enforcing this,” he said. “They can use cooperation initially, but if somebody doesn't want to comply they can be fined.”

A penalty of up to $300 for each offense would be levied if a scofflaw is found guilty by a district judge, according to the ordinance.

Tobacco Free Allegheny praised McCandless' effort to address the problem.

“When it comes to the areas where kids are at play, second-hand smoke is a bigger deal than many people realize,” said Brittney Aston, a program assistant for the non-profit organization. “So we are trying to get every municipality to get on board with this initiative.”

Aston said about 70 of the county's 130 municipalities have banned smoking in its parks and playgrounds.

In March, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed a ban on electronic cigarettes and other “vaping” devices in all public indoor places.

Allegheny is the second county in the state to prohibit e-cigarettes everywhere regular cigarettes are banned, which includes workplaces, schools, restaurants, health care-related properties, theaters, sports facilities and transit stations.

Philadelphia approved its vaping ban in 2014.

Allegheny County's attempt to prohibit smoking in public places began in 2007, but the measure was overturned by the Commonwealth Court just hours after it took effect.

Later that year the court issued a final ruling striking down the county ban.

In 2008 state lawmakers picked up the effort to eliminate smoking in public places by passing the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Since vaping is not covered by the state law, counties and municipalities must pass ordinances to prohibit their use.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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