Tobacco trash at city parks is everywhere. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion pounds of cigarette butts are tossed annually in the world. In the United States, American for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) estimate that 1.69 billion pounds of butts ended up as toxic waste in the year 2014. Omaha is no different, when I take my dog for a walk, we come across many cigarette butts, especially near or in the playgrounds where kids play. In most of the parks, benches are located near the playgrounds so that parents can watch their kids play. This is also where I see a lot of cigarette butts and trash.
Why should we care about smoking at the parks or the cigarette trash? Well, cigarette butts are harmful to the environment. Cigarette butts contain many harmful chemicals that leach into streams and ponds. These chemicals contaminate the water and it is harmful to fish and other aquatic animals. Cigarette butts can also be picked-up by birds, pets, and even small children, so they can end up ingesting these harmful chemicals. The cost of maintaining parks also increases because someone needs to pick up those cigarette butts and tobacco trash from city parks.
A tobacco-free parks policy will reduce these harmful effects on the environment and also allow us as a community to promote healthy behaviors among our youth. When young children see adults smoke at city parks, they think that it is normal for them to smoke. This is why many people in our community already support this initiative. In 2012, a study was conducted by a UNMC College of Public Health graduate student to explore public knowledge and attitudes about a smoke-free parks policy in Douglas County. This study found that 75% of the 238 people surveyed, would favor a smoke-free parks policy. Also, across the United States many cities have a comprehensive parks policy. Visit ANR’s website to find out which cities have such policies. Lastly, a tobacco-free parks policy will break the connection between tobacco and sports. Athletes know that tobacco decreases their performance; therefore, making it difficult for them to stay competitive. Thus the reason why they don’t smoke. Parks are established to promote healthy activities and smoking does not align with this vision.
What can you do to maintain Omaha parks tobacco-free? We hope that you will join us for this day of action by participating in the online dialogue on Facebook, Twitter, and of course right here on our Blog. Become a fan of the Omaha Tobacco Free Parks Facebook page. Follow us on Twitter @UNMCCRHD @MOTACOmaha @OmahaTFParks and engage with us using the hashtag: #WNTD2016 and #NoTobacco!