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 wants to
 expand smoking ban; Rights of way included in medical zone plan

Smokers who want to light up won't be welcome at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – not only in the major buildings and outside of them, but also in the street – if a proposal from campus officials is enacted.

The Common Council is considering a request to ban smoking around the entire 120-acre campus, including the public rights of way that run through it, a measure that would be the first of its kind for the city.

"It makes sense to have a healthy environment for our patients and visitors," said Michael Ball, director of planning and implementation at the Medical Campus.

The majority of the campus' facilities are smoke-free already, but this proposal would go much further.

"The issue that we have right now is that people can still smoke on sidewalks, in parking lots, and they can smoke on property that is not part of the consortium of Medical Campus institutions," Ball told a Council committee last week.

Some smaller buildings within the campus that are managed privately haven't gone completely smoke-free and wouldn't be affected by the ban, Ball said. Campus officials said the measure would protect the health of the 1 million visitors the campus receives, as well as its 12,000 employees and students. They acknowledged that a mechanism would need to be devised to prevent smokers from heading into the surrounding residential neighborhoods or onto private property within the campus that is not smoke-free.

The campus is roughly bounded by Main, North and Goodell streets and Michigan Avenue.

Last year, New York City banned smoking in public parks and beaches, and Erie County is considering ways to make similar spaces smoke-free.

The Council has to weigh the city's duty to protect public health against the rights of its constituents, said Assistant Corporation Counsel Alan P. Gerstman.

"This is unusual," Gerstman said. "I'm not aware of a specific place where any city has banned smoking in its right of way. Very carefully drawn, it could be permissible."

Council members will have to carefully consider how such a ban would be enforced, he said.

"I think it could pass muster as an exercise of the city's protection of public health, safety and welfare," Gerstman said.

The proposal is in the beginning stages, and detailed legislation likely won't be debated until the fall. Ball hopes an ordinance will be passed by the end of the year.