Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Kicking Off Tobacco Free Parks Initiative!!

TF parks

As urbanites, all we get to enjoy, when it comes to nature, is a beautiful lawn and nearby tree, if we are lucky, a garden at our home or nearby neighbor’s. In order to really come out from our everyday routine, and have a good whiff of fresh air, there is the public park.  The park is a place, since we were children, that we visited to let out some steam, to jump, to play, to scream! Never do we think about the smoke or the litter, until there it is, among the little chubby fingers of our toddler that is about to give a taste to the cigarette butt found in the sandbox.

Cigarette litter in Mandan Park, Omaha, NE (September 2012)
Cigarette litter in Mandan Park, Omaha, NE (September 2012)

Do we think twice when someone is smoking at the park? Perhaps, but not if they are at a distance.  But, are they really at a distance? No, if you see them, most likely your kids can see them too and that sends a message.  That tells our youth that smoking really isn’t that big of a deal, and what’s more, like they get to play and have fun, so do the adults. The role modeling that is demonstrated in a setting where activity is mostly mimicked should be a concern for all of us.  Next time you go to a park, know the facts, such as:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure poses health risks for children and adults. The 2010 U.S. Surgeon General’s report concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even when you are outdoors and think that the air is getting rid of the smoke, it still travels and takes time to dissipate, so you and everyone else nearby can still be exposed.

  • Cigarette litter is harmful, and the cigarette is the most littered item on the planet.  The American Lung Association states that there are 600 chemicals in cigarettes, 4,000  when lit, of those 50 are known to cause cancer.  As cigarettes can pose threats to our children they also endanger animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.

  • Adult habits affect youth. Studies have found that parental actions, attitudes, and opinions about smoking have a great deal of influence on whether or not kids smoke.

The Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) is now beginning a new initiative to make all City of Omaha parks tobacco-free.  Parks are placed to be enjoyed and promote active fun lifestyles.  Families go to parks to enjoy the facilities and spend time together.  Let’s promote positive behaviors for our children.  Help change the norms in our community and support the tobacco-free parks initiative!  You won’t be alone.  In fact over 86% of Douglas County residents support a policy to limit smoking in outdoor areas and more than 90% support a policy to limit smoking in recreational areas.

Join us in participating in the dialogue about World No Tobacco Day!  Talk about it and Share it. Leave us a comment, Facebook us, or Tweet us @UNMCCRHD @MOTACOmaha using hashtag: #WNTD2013!

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