Mayor Chuck Cahn and several anti-smoking representatives from the region gathered in DeCou Park on Thursday, Nov. 15 to announce a campaign that will ban smoking on township-owned property.
The ordinance, which will have a public hearing and potential adoption at Monday, Nov. 26’s 7:30 p.m. council meeting, will make the township’s 52 parks, trails, recreational facilities, town hall, the Cherry Hill Public Library, the Department of Public Works, Croft Farm and Barclay Farmstead smoke-free zones.
“It’s called ‘Smoke-Free Cherry Hill,’” Cahn said, and the campaign officially launched following the Nov. 8 council meeting’s ordinance approval on first reading.
The significant change, said Cahn, is in regards to the enforcement power.
Previously, the township had a resolution in place to ban smoking on township property, but there are no penalties for violators.
“Why are we doing this? Cherry Hill residents deserve to breathe clean air,” Cahn said.
There are serious illnesses related to smoking, he said, including cancer, heart disease, asthma and a host of other respiratory issues.
Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke face an increased risk to several illnesses, he said.
“This is about protecting our children,” said Cahn. “It’s about smoke-free zones.”
“It encourages healthy environments,” he added.
The ordinance will give residents the right to enjoy the facilities and help to minimize cigarette butt litter that pollutes land and water and is harmful when ingested by children, pets and wildlife alike.
In addition, said Cahn, the ordinance will reduce maintenance costs, make smoke-free areas the norm, establish healthy habits early and set an example for other organizations.
Through Cahn’s Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, he has encouraged healthy living habits for the past year.
Keeping cigarette smoke out of open space will aid in that effort, he said.
According to Kim Burns of Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey and the Department of Health, the ordinance is one of the most comprehensive in the South Jersey region.
“This ordinance is designed to protect the health of the residents of Cherry Hill,” said Burns. “This is not just an issue of secondhand smoke.”
This is the de-normalization of smoking and the impact on future generations, she continued.
“We want our kids to grow up in a world where smoking is not the norm,” she said.
The American Cancer Society’s representative, Jackie Craig, spoke of the Great American Smoke-Out, now in it’s 37th year, which coincided with the campaign announcement.
Every third Thursday of November, the day is in the spotlight as a time to quit smoking.
According to Craig, research shows that smokers are most successful when using smoking cessation hotlines, groups, nicotine replacement methods, prescriptions or support and encouragement from family and friends.
“Using two or more of these methods to help you quit smoking works better than using any one alone,” she said.
Call the American Cancer Society’s hotline for telephone counseling at (800) 227–2345.
“The Great American Smoke-Out has helped dramatically change American’s attitudes about smoking,” said Craig.
Local support for smoking cessation is available through the Camden County Department of Health said Cahn.
As part of the campaign, the township will be promoting cessation programs and other resources to help end the habit.
“Please. If you’re a smoker, consider making the change,” he said.
Jennifer DiStefano and the Cherry Hill High School East Students Against Tobacco were on hand to donate a $1,000 check to personalize the signage for the parks.
The group fundraised all of last year for the signage, said DiStefano.
“We are so thrilled to be here today,” she said.
Addressing the students, Cahn expressed how special their support was to the township.
“I think this will make a significant impact,” he said.
The first penalty will be a fine of up to $150.
“If we’re going to be serious about smoke free zones, I think we should be serious about the penalties,” said Cahn.
Several other municipalities in South Jersey have created similar bans, including Clayton, Penns Grove, Palmyra, Bridgeton, Glassboro and Somers Point, officials said.
If the ordinance passes at the council meeting, there will be 20 days before it takes effect.
After that, there will be a 30-day warning period before fines begin.
Therefore, enforcement will first be seen around early January.
The police department, said Cahn, is supportive and understands the consequences for violators.
It’s time to look for signs around town and spread the word, said Cahn, “That smoke-free zones are coming to Cherry Hill.”
“I encourage all our interested residents and groups to come out and show your support that evening,” he said.