Carroll policy lets family breathe easy

Smoking: A mother's concern leads to a tobacco ban at the county's recreation council events.

January 18, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Danielle Kazyak, a 12- year-old soccer star who plays year-round on four different Carroll County teams, can outrun most of her opponents - so long as no one is smoking nearby.

A severe asthmatic, Danielle, who attends West Middle School in Westminster, is immediately affected by secondhand smoke. Her chest tightens and she cannot breathe, she said.

"I leave the game, use my inhaler and then, sometimes, I can't go back in," she said. "I get angry. It is frustrating that I can't play because of somebody who is not even playing."

Danielle's mother, Clare Kazyak, decided to do something about it. She marshaled support from all 18 Carroll recreation councils for a ban on smoking at games they sponsor.

The proposal won unanimous approval from Carroll's three commissioners yesterday.

According to the policy adopted yesterday by the commissioners, tobacco products - cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff - will no longer be allowed within 50 yards of a public or private playing field in Carroll when children are playing organized sports. About 24,000 Carroll children are involved in recreation council sports.

Kazyak, a 39-year-old mother of three and part-time chemist, readily admits that she shies away from controversy, but when secondhand smoke repeatedly forced Danielle off the soccer field, she addressed the Deer Park Recreation Council and wrote the county a lengthy letter noting research and calling for the ban.

"I would never have done this, if not for my child," said Kazyak. "My husband said it was the power of motherhood. I am truly amazed at the amount of support. I expected opposition. This is a really important issue, especially for those with serious respiratory problems."

She also wanted to send a message to coaches she has seen smoking near their young players.

"Children idolize their coaches and smoking sets a poor example, if we ever want to stop the cycle of tobacco addiction," she said.

The ban should mean that secondhand smoke will never again force Danielle to leave a game in Carroll. Only Talbot County has a similar ban.

"I love everything about the game, and I love to run," Danielle said. "As long as nobody is smoking, I am fine."

Debra Southerland, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Baltimore, commended Carroll for protecting the health of its children.

"Even outdoor smoke is harmful for those with serious lung problems," said Southerland. "Secondhand smoke is the No. 1 cause of acute asthma attacks that lead to trips to hospital emergency rooms."

Sometimes, even a whiff of smoke from a cigarette can trigger an asthmatic attack, she said.

"We are not just talking about smoke, but about the dangerous chemicals that are in it, including more than 200 toxins that we would not voluntarily expose our children to," she said.

She also reminded parents and coaches of their roles.

"You have children on the athletic field pursuing health and fitness," she said. "They should not see adults smoking on the sidelines."

For the commissioners, the decision to enact the ban came readily.

"Obviously I support this," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "Tobacco is illegal for children under 18, and adults should set an example."

Gary Horst, Carroll's director of enterprise and recreation services, allayed Frazier's concerns about enforcing the policy. The 18 Carroll recreation councils unanimously support it and have said they will enforce it, he said.

"Coaches will tell children's observers that they cannot smoke or use tobacco products as a condition of attending a game," said Horst. "Forfeiture of a game could be a penalty for failure to comply."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell commended the councils.

"This helps the commissioners to make decisions which are controversial and enhances our clean-air policy and our efforts all the way around," said Dell.

The effort has made an activist of Clare Kazyak and has shown how one person can make a difference, she said.

"I would love to see this ban statewide," she said. "Danielle plays on travel teams that often go outside the county."

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