PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department has started a “play hard, breathe easy” campaign to promote tobacco-free parks and playgrounds in the two-county area.
The health department’s Public Health Educator Becky Piano said the tobacco-free parks campaign is one of several initiatives funded through the “We Choose Health” community transformation grant received through the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In addressing tobacco-free parks and playgrounds, Piano said she has walked around area playgrounds and seen many cigarette butts on the ground. Playgrounds and parks should be places where children can play without being subject to second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is also dangerous for adults as well, especially people with asthma or respiratory concerns, she said.
According to the American Lung Association, exposure to second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Studies also show cigarette butts are the most littered item, and cigarette butts don’t disintegrate, Piano said. Children, especially toddlers, pick things up from the ground and often put them in their mouths, she added.
The “play hard, breath easy” campaign looks not only at the health-advantages of having tobacco-free parks and playgrounds, but also at the environmental and beautification aspects of being tobacco-free, Piano said.
As part of the campaign, Piano said the health department hopes to work with local officials to install more “No Smoking” signage in area playgrounds and parks.
Princeton Park District Executive Director Elaine Russell said the park board revised all policies and procedure manuals in 1996, and at that time, park facilities were included in the district’s smoke-free policies. “No Smoking” signs have been posted, but the signs have been vandalized. The policy really only gives leverage to non-smokers to ask that a smoker refrain from smoking in a specific location, she said.
Princeton City Clerk Pete Nelson said the city did pass a Smoke Free Princeton ordinance on Feb. 17, 2009. This ordinance essentially mirrored the language of the state statute, but only addressed indoor smoking in public and private spaces. The ordinance outlined the definitions of indoor spaces, the complaint procedure to the Princeton Police Department, and also the punitive consequences such as fines. Outdoor spaces were not addressed in this ordinance, Nelson said.
“Although the city does not dispute scientific evidence on the ill-health effects of second-hand smoke, there has not been a concerted effort by the city administration to bring a higher priority for banning smoking in public outdoor spaces.,” Nelson said. “If the public believes such action is needed, then the city would assess its priorities accordingly.”
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Did you know?
• Exposure to second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, killing 38,000 to 65,000 non-smokers every year.
• Second-hand smoke levels in outdoor public places can reach levels as high as those found in indoor facilities where smoking is permitted.
• Tobacco-free policies help change community norms. Tobacco-free policies establish the community norm that tobacco use is not an acceptable behavior for young people or adults.
• Tobacco-free policies enable leaders to model healthy lifestyle choices.
• Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. They are a fire hazard, increase park maintenance expenses and can be eaten by toddlers, birds, pets and other animals.
• Cigarette filters are not biodegradable and can take five to 10 years to decompose.
• Chemicals in cigarette butts, like hydrogen, cyanide and arsenic, leak into the soil and water.
• Tobacco-free policies encourage smokers to quit, reduce the number of cigarettes smoked and help former smokers remain smoke-free.
Source: American Lung Association.