Friday March 23, 2012

LANESBOROUGH -- The Berkshire Mall is about to implement a tobacco-free policy throughout the property.

The mall's parent company, Pyramid Management Group of Syracuse, N.Y., is banning the use of all tobacco products at the 15 shopping malls it owns in Massachusetts and New York starting May 31.

According to Pyramid, all 15 malls that the company owns and operates will become "100 percent tobacco-free" on that date.

Pyramid decided to implement the policy in two months to give the public advance notice, according to the company's marketing director Jennifer O'Leary.

The use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco will be banned, along with any other substances or instruments that are either "lit or burning" such as electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine.

The policy will be in effect both inside and outside the mall, including entry points, hallways, sidewalks, loading dock areas, parking lots and construction areas. It applies to all mall associates, tenant employees, vendors, delivery people, contractors, subcontractors, and shoppers. Signs provided by local tobacco control coalitions will be posted around the mall to alert employees and shoppers about the new policy.

Berkshire Mall General Manager Joseph Scelsi said the one mall tenant that has a license to sell tobacco products will still be allowed to do so.

Scelsi said Pyramid has been considering the implementation of a tobacco-free policy at all of its properties since 2007 when it began a smoke-free policy at the Carousel Center in Syracuse, N.Y., which is the country's sixth largest mall. The Carousel Center will also become tobacco-free in May.

"It's been well received," Scelsi said, referring to the policy at the Carousel Center. "They feel it's been a benefit to the community and for people in general.

"The No. 1 complaint we receive from our visitors is about smokers at the entrances," Scelsi said. "Breathing second-hand smoke is unacceptable. We want to move forward with the health and safety of the people at the mall. That's our responsibility."

Pyramid's other Massachusetts properties are the Independence Mall in Kingston, the Hampshire Mall in Hadley, and the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside. Pyramid also owns the Crossgates Mall in Albany, N.Y.

A telephone call seeking comment from Pyramid's headquarters in Syracuse was not returned.

"We strongly believe this new policy will not only support our employees and guests who are sensitive to second-hand smoke or are trying to quit smoking, but it will also provide an enjoyable and healthier shopping experience to the millions of visitors who come through our doors each year," said James L. Soos, Pyramid's director of asset management, in a written statement.

Pyramid has been working with regional tobacco control partnerships funded by both the New York State Tobacco Program and the American Cancer Society to implement the new policy.

In Massachusetts, American Cancer Society spokesman Tom Flanagan said that he was unaware of Pyramid's new policy, and believes it is the first such initiative implemented by an owner of shopping malls in the state.

"Hopefully, it's a trend that could continue," Flanagan said. "Certainly, from our point of view it's great news."

Pyramid will be providing opportunities for Berkshire Mall employees who smoke to obtain smoking cessation information and counseling in conjunction with Berkshire Medical Center and its director of tobacco treatment services.

"We will have a plan in place very soon," O'Leary said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.