The Hempstead Town Board, last Tuesday, unanimously passed Supervisor Richard Guardino's proposal to ban tobacco advertising in areas frequented by children.
The legislation bans any outdoor advertising that includes any words, logo, or other image which depicts the existence or availability of tobacco products within 1000 feet of any park, playground, school or licensed daycare facility. The legislation also bans the placement of such advertising in the interiors of any building or structure located within 1000 feet of a park, playground, school or licensed daycare facility if the advertisement is located within five feet of any exterior window or door and visible from the outside of the building or structure. The legislation not only prevents any new advertising from being put up, it requires that any existing advertising be removed.
Businesses that currently have such advertising have 30 days from the enactment of the legislation, which was June 6, to remove it or they will face fines for breaching the building code ordinance. Violators of this ordinance will face a fine of $350 for the first offense with escalating costs for any additional offense and the threat of a misdemeanor jail term.
Although currently the only other townships to have this ban are Babylon and Huntington, similar legislation has been proposed in the Town of North Hempstead and the Town of Oyster Bay, as well as in the cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach. Guardino noted that the Town of Hempstead has taken a look at what other townships have done and have researched whether or not this ordinance could withstand scrutiny and be upheld and the town attorney found that it could.
Guardino stated that he proposed this legislation in the hopes that it will decrease the number of children who become addicted to nicotine. "The statistics have shown that although the adult smoking rate has decreased nationally, the smoking rate for children has increased dramatically," said the supervisor.
Tobacco companies have spent $354 million in New York State advertising and promoting their products and, according to Guardino, much of this advertising is directed at children and hooking children into the addiction. Between 1991 and 1996 the high school student smoking rate has increased by 26 percent and is now at the highest rate since 1981. "These statistics clearly demonstrate that our children continue to be influenced by cigarette advertisements that glamorize and portray smoking as something done by the 'in crowd'. We need to reach our young people at an earlier age to dispel these myths. Removing visual triggers is an important step in the process," stated Guardino. The supervisor noted that although the sale of tobacco products to children is illegal, it still occurs. The American Medical Association and the National Institute of Health have concluded that cigarette advertising practices largely contribute to teen smoking.
Students from Operation Pride in Freeport and a student from East Meadow, all of whom announced to the board that they were drug, alcohol and tobacco free, spoke at the June 6 hearing and encouraged the board to pass this legislation. Guardino said that he was very impressed with these students' commitment and their efforts to prevent other students from picking up this deadly habit.
Although tobacco itself is something that is controlled on national level by the FDA, Guardino said that he feels the ban on the advertising in areas frequented by children is something that can be done on a local level and he is always looking to see what other legislation can be enacted to assist in this pursuit of keeping youngsters from becoming addicted to smoking.
"It is an addiction and they find that if you do not get started there's a good chance you'll never become addicted, " said Guardino. "The most vulnerable are youngsters. They are talking about some statistics that over 3000 teens begin smoking every day, 4.5 million adolescents smoke, 430,700 Americans die as a result of smoking, it is responsible for one in five deaths in the United States. The statistics are just devastating and I feel very strongly about it. It's just devastating that the cigarette companies are gearing this sort of advertising to our youngsters and promoting this kind of addiction." He went on to say that it bothers him that while everyone works so hard to protect children, tobacco companies are allowed to prey on them. It was for this reason that the proposal to ban the advertising around any park, playground, school or licensed daycare facility received bipartisan support from the Town of Hempstead Board.
"I'll be glad that when I go to the park with my daughter, I'm not going to find any tobacco advertising around it," concluded Guardino.