Anti-tobacco advocates step up their efforts
HUDSON — The Rip Van Winkle Tobacco-Free Coalition Wednesday morning honored local residents from both counties who aid them in their efforts at their annual breakfast at Club Helsinki.
Receiving the You Make a Difference Award were Nancy Richards from Greene County and Zoe Wisniowki of Columbia County.
Additional awards were also bestowed on three community advocates who work with the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood program for working to improve the lives and futures of children in the community.
Director Karen dePeyster opened the program with an overview of anti-tobacco efforts locally, statewide and across the nation, summing up those efforts with three words — imagine, believe, achieve.
“We believe in big change because we have already seen it happen,” dePeyster told the group. “Fifty years ago the smoking rate was almost 50 percent of adults, now it’s 18 percent in New York. In the first year alone after New York’s CIAA (Clean Indoor Air Act) went into effect in 2003, there were 3,800 fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks.”
“In 2004,” she continued, “25,000 New Yorkers died every year from smoking-related illness, and about the same number — 25,000 — of young people age 18 and under became smokers. Ten years later, the number of deaths is coming down slowly, but the number of new smokers age 18 and under has been cut in half. Those are all big changes.”
In addition to state legislation, changes have been made on the local level, dePeyster said. Municipalities in both Columbia and Greene counties have taken steps to discourage smoking in certain areas, particularly in parks and playgrounds, where children congregate.
In Greene County, 75 percent of town and village parks and playgrounds have some smoking restrictions, and 14 of 16 towns in Columbia County, including the City of Hudson, have banned smoking in all their parks, dePeyster pointed out.
Inroads have also been made into ensuring that smoke-free housing is available to those who want it — the two counties now have 19 affordable housing properties, with a total of 653 units, that are non-smoking, as well as 17 of the 19 senior housing facilities. The list also includes two multi-unit housing complexes aimed at low- and middle-income residents.
In Columbia County, Hudson Terrace and Crosswinds Hudson both have several buildings designated as non-smoking.