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North Hills

Ross considering measure to snuff out tobacco, vaping in township parks and buildings

Tony LaRussa
| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, 3:48 p.m.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em — just not in any of Ross Township’s parks.

Ross officials are poised to introduce a measure that would outlaw the use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco products, e-cigarettes and other electronic vaping devices in the municipality’s 23 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.

The measure, which is expected to be formally introduced later this month, cites national and state statistics on the dangers of being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The proposed ordinance notes that more than 858,000 young people in Pennsylvania are exposed to tobacco smoke each day and that more than 430,000 people in the United States die yearly from smoking related illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke — whether indoors or outdoors — to which people can be exposed.

Commissioner Jason Pirring, who is pushing the measure, sees the ban as common-sense legislation.

“People going out to use the parks or to watch their kid’s ballgame shouldn’t have to breath in tobacco smoke or see all the butts that get tossed on the ground,” he said.

While council still must work out details of the ordinance, a draft copy of the law calls for a fine of no less than $100 and no more than $1,000 for violators.

The township also is considering extending the ban to all municipal properties.

State law already prohibits smoking in public buildings — including those owned by Ross, said board President Steve Korbel.

The addition to the ban Ross is considering would be a ban on smoking “as soon as someone steps onto township property.”

Korbel noted that extending the prohibition against smoking to all township properties is a change that would have to be negotiated with the union representing the municipality’s employees.

While Pirring’s primary focus is making the parks smoke free, he supports the across-the-board ban.

He noted that people entering the municipal center often have to walk past people smoking outside.

In addition to housing the police department, municipal offices and the commissioners’ chambers, the building also is used daily as a community center.

Commissioner Jack Betkowski suggested that the board move forward with banning smoking in the parks and then revisit the issue of adding the other municipal properties.

The draft ordinance, which could be enacted as early as February, calls for penalties for employees who violate the no-smoking ban that includes “reprimands, suspensions and termination.”

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

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