S&S neighbors plead for 'no smoking'

Gwen Chamberlain
Homeowners across the street from Soldiers &?Sailors Memorial Hospital have posted signs asking people to not smoke in front of their homes.

 It’s not unusual to see temporary signs in front yards during an election year, but the latest signs on North Main Street carry more personal messages than a candidate’s name.

Instead, they advise passers-by to mind their manners:

No Smoking Severe Asthmatic Person

No Smoking Children at Play

The signs, which cropped up in the front yards of five houses recently, are actually pleas to employees of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital, where a campus-wide smoking ban went into effect at the beginning of the year. The policy means smoking isn’t permitted anywhere on the hospital property, including in private cars and on the sidewalks on the west side of the street, which are considered part of the hospital’s property.

Heather Hulse, a social worker at The Homestead long term care facility at S&S, lives across North Main Street from the hospital, and began to worry about the impact the new policy might have on her residential neighborhood.

She and others who live across the street feared hospital employees might use the sidewalk in front of their homes for their smoke breaks.

After learning from Mayor Douglas Marchionda Jr. that because the sidewalk that runs in front of the houses on the east side of the street belongs to the village and the homeowners can’t prohibit smoking, the neighbors agreed to have signs made to remind smokers that their habit isn’t welcome in front of the houses.

“I have sympathy with anybody who is a smoker. It’s a lifestyle change, but I have a legitimate issue,” says Kim Hansen, another homeowner who has posted a sign. Hansen says as an asthmatic, she’s worried about smoke causing health problems for her and her daughter, who also has asthma.

She is concerned when the weather turns warmer, her family may not be able to use their porches, which are fairly close to the sidewalk, if people stand there to smoke.

“It’s not a matter of being offended. It’s a health issue. We’re really just learning how bad second hand smoke can be,” she says, describing some of her close relatives who have suffered from illnesses related to second hand smoke.

Hulse says while they have found a few cigarette butts near their home, for the most part they’ve found that the staff have been “pretty good,” an encouragement for the neighbors.

“We don’t hate smokers. We take pride in our homes,” she says.

“We don’t want issues like you see around the schools. We’re hoping the hospital will back us up on this, and so far, they have,” adds Hansen.