“A healthier nation in one generation” is more than a public health slogan; it is a goal that is achievable and vital to economic and physical health of all Americans. Every parent, grandparent and community resident wants a better world, and better health for our children. There are steps that we can take to ensure better health for the next generation, starting from the very beginning with playing tobacco free.
Playing tobacco free involves having tobacco free parks and recreation areas that promote health in every way. There are some wonderful children’s playgrounds, trails, and sports areas in our communities that are the envy of many other cities. Making them tobacco free so that all family members can enjoy them safely would make them more appealing to visit and enhance their beauty.
The deliberate purpose of park areas is to promote community wellness and healthy activities. Tobacco free policies fit this purpose in every way. Tobacco free parks policies protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone in a community.
Secondhand smoke exposure is harmful to everyone and there is no safe level of exposure. Parks are no different than other spaces. Secondhand smoke in outdoor public facilities can reach levels as high as those found in indoor facilities where smoking is permitted.
Another safety issue is the danger of cigarette litter. Discarded cigarettes, e-cig cartridges, and spit tobacco may be ingested by toddlers, pets, birds, or fish. Cigarette litter pollutes our land and our water, as well as being a significant poisoning risk, especially for children.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has said, “Poisonings have resulted ... due to ingestion of nicotine liquid, absorption through the skin, and inhalation. E-cigarette exposure calls to poison centers increased from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, and over half of those calls were regarding children ages 5 and under.”
Tobacco free environments promote positive community role modeling; we set the example that we want children to follow.
What is the difference between a park policy and an ordinance? Park policies are rules approved by city councils posted on signs. Those who ignore them do not receive a fine but are asked to stop or leave the premises. Tobacco free parks policies are self-enforced. Tobacco free parks policies work. Policies reduce litter and maintenance resulting in cleaner, safer parks. Tobacco free policies provide consistency among facilities and groups going from schools to parks and recreation facilities. Most park directors support policies. Policy enforcement and violations are not issues and there are no negative changes in park usage by residents. Park usage may even go up because of the clean friendly atmosphere promoted in tobacco free parks.
Tobacco free parks policies can make a difference in the health and safety of all community residents, but especially for our children. Now is the time to help our children be a healthier generation.
For more information about tobacco free parks contact Janel Rose, CDRR Coordinator for Barton, Rice, and Stafford Counties, at Barton County Health Department, 620-793-1902.
Janel Rose is the health educator for the Barton County Health Department. She can be reached at 620-793-1902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.