BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL
During the Rockland County Full Legislature Session on Tuesday January 15, the Legacy Community Activist Award was presented to Haverstraw Mayor Michael Kohut and community activist Marion Breland-Oswald. The award was presented by Maureen Kenney, the director of POW’R Against Tobacco.
“Rockland County is known as a trailblazer in tobacco control not only in our region but throughout the country. Wherever I go, people are talking about Rockland County and its success,” said Kenney.
“We’re really proud of the fact that Rockland County has set the pace in New York State as being on the cutting edge of smoking cessation activities. In 2007, we were the first county in the nation to ban smoking in cars with children. In 2011, we became the first county in the nation to pass legislation that required owner that required owners of multiple unit dwellings to disclose their smoking policies to their tenants. And most recently in 2012, the Village of Haverstraw passed the nations first ban on tobacco displays,” said Legislator Alden Wolfe.
Wolfe failed to mention that the village was promptly walloped with a lawsuit backed by some of the biggest companies in the tobacco industry and, lacking financial backing from the anti-tobacco movement, retreated from the battle, reneging on their ordinance. Even so, the idea sparked others to get interested in similar ordinances across the nation in different communities.
“We need to get this tobacco marketing out of our kid’s faces when they go into stores,” said Kenney. “The 2012 report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report on the Surgeon General, concluded that tobacco marketing causes youth tobacco use. The tobacco industry spends one million dollars a day to market tobacco products in New York State, according to The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Much of this marketing is done at the checkout counters in convenience stores, a highly visible location.”
The Legacy Foundation has a mission for “longer and healthier lives,” Kenney said. They have programs committed to combat smoking, such as “Truth,” EX, research initiatives and outreach. The awards accepted by the village on Tuesday were given out on behalf of the Legacy Foundation, Senator David Carlucci, and other groups.
“Despite our village attorney’s advice not to do this, we did this on behalf of the kids in the Village of Haverstraw. Sometimes it’s the effort, even if the results sort of change things. We’re just happy that we can do what we can to keep tobacco out of kids hand in our village,” said Mayor Kohut.
“I got to give a shout out to my board because they are always on the side of doing what is right. They put their money where their mouth is with prevention for youth. They really do so much more than you ever dream,” said Breland-Oswald.
The County of Rockland and the Village of Haverstraw are putting great efforts in the anti-smoking campaigns. Legislator and Town Attorney Jay Hood put it best when he said, “Even if we keep one child from starting smoking it is all worth it.”