Joyce Harris-Thacker, representing a number of Upshur County agencies, recently appeared before the Buckhannon City Council to discuss the Tobacco Free Zones program.
She requested the council consider making the city's parks and recreations areas all smoke-free. Thacker-Harris said if the council would approve the request, she could get signage to designate the smoke-free zones.
"It's a two-fold issue in our community," Harris-Thacker said. "First is the health issue, and the second is the litter issue'"
Harris-Thacker, who is the chair of the Upshur County Solid Waste Authority, said 90,945 cigarette butts are thrown out each day just in Upshur County. She said through her work with the local Rotary, she has picked up litter in city parks, and most of the debris collected is cigarette butts and tobacco-related litter. The program is designed to encourage tobacco-free parks and recreation areas because it sends the right message, that tobacco is unhealthy and unnecessary, according to the paperwork handed out by Harris-Thacker.
Harris-Thacker's information noted tobacco-free policies encourage young people to make healthy choices and to teach them that smoking is not an acceptable behavior. She said children who see adults using tobacco in public places are taught by example that tobacco is acceptable and a cultural norm.
She said each dollar spent on prevention is returned seven-fold in savings when it comes to treatment of tobacco-related illnesses and related issues.
Councilman John Waltz said he is interested in the matter, but wondered how such an ordinance would be enforced.
"I think if we are going to be a progressive city, we need to get with the times," Waltz said.
Waltz also said he is troubled with smoking taking place in businesses and other establishments in the county where it shouldn't. Waltz reported seeing smoking in establishments where it is not authorized.
Minors smoking in public was also briefly discussed. Police Chief Matt Gregory said when his officers see minors smoking in public, they are cited for the offense.
Statistics show that 22.3 percent, or nearly a quarter of all Mountain State high school students smoke. Twenty-five percent of all male high school students in the state use oral tobacco. Statistics show that more than 2,400 West Virginia youths under the age of 18 will become daily smokers this year.