According to the CDC, if youth smoking continues at the current rate it is at today, 5.6 million individuals younger than 18 will die of tobacco or smoking related illnesses in the United States. That’s 1 out of 13 kids who are 17 years of age or younger!
As a society, we realize the negative effects of smoking and are conscience of the effects it has on our health. Since the Smoke Free Air Act of Iowa passed in 2008, which prohibits smoking in almost all public areas, more policy changes are attempting to be pushed to make the air around us and our children safer. The attempt is through establishing Tobacco and Nicotine free parks within the Cedar Rapids community. Many neighboring towns have already passed policies or ordinances emphasizing this idea of complete Tobacco and/or Nicotine free parks such as Marion, Mt. Vernon and Lisbon.
There is serious health, environmental and societal risks associated with nicotine or tobacco use in parks. One societal and health risk being that the point of parks is to promote healthy activities – implementing tobacco and nicotine free park policies would be another way to emphasis the importance of health and promote wellness. Another emphasis on health includes the amount of secondhand smoke which can be harmful to those within any proximity of an individual who is smoking or using a device that produces vapor, as we still are not quite sure of the long term impact of exposure to these devices.
Another societal risk would be the fact that children imitate and model adult behavior, thus, seeing adults openly use nicotine and/or tobacco within parks will further work to normalize the behavior. Knowing children’s perception of harm directly impacts usage, having healthy models to follow will only help children make better decisions for themselves in the future.
There are also some environmental and sanitation risks associated with the litter that is found in park areas. Cigarette butts, chew packets, and other forms of packaging associated with tobacco or nicotine products can take years to fully decompose and in the meantime, these pollutes are scattered around parks where children, pets and wildlife can get a hold of them and/or ingesting them.
Hundreds of communities across the United States have implemented Smoke, Nicotine and Tobacco Free Park policies and programs and have seen health and societal improvements. Let’s help Cedar Rapids join the ranks as one of the communities across the nation that wants to have as many health environments for our youth as possible!