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‘Play hard, breathe easy’

Health dept. continues its smoke-free park campaign

PRINCETON — Public health educators at the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department are working hard to promote the “Play hard, breathe easy” campaign, which kicked off in August and encourages tobacco-free parks and playgrounds.

At a recent Princeton Optimist Club meeting, Becky Piano gave a presentation on the campaign and updated members on how she and others are visiting many of the towns around the two country region and asking for village boards to pass a policy in favor of the campaign.

“I’m not asking people to quit smoking. I’m not trying to invade in anyone’s rights whatsoever. I’m just asking when you’re down at the parks around children, not to smoke when you’re around them,” she 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.

Piano said so far, 58 park districts and 25 villages in the state have passed the same policy.

The village of Hennepin was the first in this area to pass the policy. With the new policy, the village will post signs around their parks, reminding there is no smoking allowed.

“What we’re doing is not that different from saying ‘No alcohol allowed,’” Piano said.

She confirmed the policy does not involve police departments enforcing the policy, but rather it’s more of a way to remind citizens there is a policy in the village that’s promoting cleaner, more positive communities.

“I think it looks good when you drive into a town, and it says come see our beautiful parks and playgrounds; they are smoke free,” she said.

As the team moves throughout the Putnam County area, it will then proceed into Bureau County.

“We’re very optimistic that we can continue to move throughout Putnam County and get all the villages on board with this, and then we can start coming over to the smaller areas in Bureau County and look there,” she said.

Piano said she originally started in Princeton, however, there was hesitancy with the many outdoor fundraisers and beer gardens, which take place in parks.

“My feeling is those are just a few day occurrences in the 365-day year that maybe we can work with them and change those policies possibly on those days,” she said.

This month the public health educators will be presenting their presentation at the McNabb Village Board.

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