GOULDSBORO — Dana Rice has smoked a pipe for much of his life, but he and other selectmen are considering adopting tobacco-free policies after hearing a persuasive presentation from Healthy Acadia. The nonprofit organization works with communities in Hancock and Washington counties and as far afield as Piscataquis County on issues ranging from food insecurity to substance use prevention.
At the Jan. 20 selectmen’s meeting, Community Health Coordinator Mia Petrini informed the board that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States.
In Maine, Petrini noted, 2,400 people die of smoking-related illnesses every year. Tobacco use causes 29 percent of all the state’s cancer deaths. No exposure to secondhand smoke is safe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It makes sense to promote where we can limit exposure to tobacco products,” Petrini told the board.
Children are especially at risk from exposure to secondhand smoke because their lungs are still growing.
“I do realize the importance of secondhand smoke on a younger generation,” Rice said. “I think we should look at it.”
Fellow Selectman Ernie West agreed, saying, “I think we should consider it.”
What the community health coordinator proposed was for Gouldsboro to join other Hancock County towns in adopting a tobacco-free policy. Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, Hancock, Mariaville, Mount Desert and Tremont are among the other communities that have signed on. Implementing a tobacco-free policy involves raising awareness about the hazards of tobacco smoke, reducing secondhand smoke exposure and providing people with resources to quit smoking.
Petrini says Healthy Acadia can help the town draft and implement such a policy. Having worked with other towns, she said her organization already has sample language for drawing up the text. Healthy Acadia also provides free signage, brochures, free presentations, materials and training. On its website, the organization states that it awards mini-grants of up to $1,000 to help communities create tobacco-free policies.
Interim Town Manager Eve Wilkinson offered to work with Petrini to draft a policy for the Select Board’s review. Gouldsboro Police Chief Pat McNulty also volunteered to participate in the initiative since enforcement likely would be involved.