Starting the conversation on Philly’s tobacco policy

    Officials at the Philadelphia Health Department don’t want you to smoke. They do want your opinion on a series of proposals designed to curb tobacco use in the city and protect people from second-hand smoke.

    The city is staging community discussions to gauge public opinion on nine ideas. So far, most of the ideas are not official proposals–just conversation starters.

    No. 3 on the list is promoting smoke-free homes. For example, the city has the authority to prohibit smoking in public housing.

    Glenn Graham attended the forum in Northeast Philadelphia. He doesn’t smoke and he sometimes asks the people around him to put out their cigarettes.

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    Still, he’s skeptical that a smoking ban in public housing would work.

    “Who’s going to enforce it? Am I going to have a smoke alarm in my bathroom so that when I light up a cigarette, the alarm goes off and the police come in my home,” Graham said. “If you are going to have a law, or requirement, you have to be able to enforce it.”

    Andrew Kerstein, who owns five tobacco stores in New Jersey called Smokers’ Haven, said the public housing proposal seems like unfair treatment.

    “Let me draw a parallel. It would be equivalent to them turning around and saying, because you are in public housing, you can’t eat McDonald’s because McDonald’s has too high of a fat content, or because you are on public housing you can’t drink Coca-Cola,” Kerstein said.

    Other ideas on the city’s list include smoke-free parks, no-tobacco zones near schools and prohibiting sales of tobacco products at pharmacies and drug stores.

    Supported by a grant from the city Department of Public Health, WHYY is hosting “Smoke Signals,” a series of forums to gather the community’s input on tobacco policy in Philadelphia. The Penn Project for Civic Engagement will guide the discussions.

    All forums begin at 6:30 p.m.

    Sept 26 at WHYY, 150 N. 6th St.

    Oct 6 at the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, 35 W. Chelten Ave.

    Oct 12 at the Fels South Philly Community Center, 2407 S. Broad St.

    Advance registration is requested.

    E-mail or call 215-898-1112.

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