Patrons of state public or association libraries are protected from secondhand smoke under the Public Health Law. This law restricts smoking on the grounds of hospitals, day care centers, residential treatment facilities and within 100 feet of library entryways.
Ron Kirsop, executive director of the Pioneer Library System, reached out to the Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes as library administration started planning for the new policy.
Twenty libraries within the system decided to adopt a more comprehensive policy than the state required, prohibiting all tobacco use and vaping on library property. TACFL assisted 13 libraries in Ontario and Wayne counties.
“Every year, nearly 28,000 deaths in the state are attributed to smoking-related illnesses, including lung cancer,” said Penny Gugino, TACFL director. “Of that number, a little more than 3,000 adult nonsmokers die from secondhand smoke exposure. When a cigarette is lit, it impacts everyone around it.”
The primary function of smoke-free laws and policies is to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke; however, studies show that smoke-free laws can help tobacco users quit and prevent the initiation of tobacco use by youth.
“Libraries are a public resource often used by senior citizens, school children and populations that may be more vulnerable to the types of respiratory illnesses that can be triggered by secondhand smoke,” said Elizabeth Hamlin, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York state. “Expanding the law to include libraries protects everyone, including some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
Some libraries imposed tobacco-free policies voluntarily before the law was passed. All libraries in the state will post signs to ensure compliance with state law.