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Mayor, citing own research, says second-hand smoke is not harmful
by Deven Clarke and WJAC Web Staff
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. -- Last week, Punxsutawney Mayor James Wehrle vetoed the borough council's bill that banned smoking in public places.
Wehrle said smoking outside is a civil liberty that should not be taken away.
Punxsutawney Borough Council President Larry Chenoga told 6 News that the mayor doesn't feel that smoking outdoors bothers people who aren't smoking.
Citing his own research, Wehrle said second-hand smoke outside does not contribute to cancer.
"I think it's a red herring to say it causes cancer," he said. "But then when you talk to people, it's always about the smell of their clothes. I think it may bother kids if they're next to it for a period of time, but I think in open air, people can get out of the way."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, second-hand smoke can have very real health effects on adults and children.
The CDC found that second-hand smoke can cause ear infections, respiratory infections and a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome in children.
In adults, second-hand smoke can be a contributor to heart disease and lung cancer.
According to CDC statistics, second-hand smoke causes 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults every year.
The CDC does not split its statistics between indoor and outdoor second-hand smoke, but it does say that there is no risk-free level.
Public opinion in Punxsutawney about the ban is mixed.
"Actually, it makes me gag," said Chris Sprankoe, who doesn't smoke and is in favor of the ban.
"They've already taken smoking out of restaurants and everything," said Thomas Helibrun, who is a smoker, "so I don't think it should be banned out of parks."
Borough council will revisit the issue in December. If the majority plus one votes in favor of the ban, it will override the mayor's veto