Tobacco and Nicotine Free Parks

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Out of current tobacco users, about 90% started as teens, and over 75% want to quit.  Supporting Tobacco-Free parks (TFP) and recreation areas sends an important message, especially to youth: tobacco use is unhealthy and unnecessary.

Most understand that kids, families, and those trying to improve their health use city parks the most.


Why communities implement tobacco-free park policies?

  • Tobacco-free environments promote positive community role modeling.
  • Tobacco-free policies help change community norms and behaviors.
  • Parks are instrumental in promoting health and wellness.
  • Secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone, even outdoors.
  • Tobacco-free parks can decrease park maintenance costs.
  • Cigarette litter is dangers to toddlers, wildlife, and the environment.
  • Like schools, parks are frequented by families and youth.

Some communities choose to go Nicotine-free to address the use of Electronic Smoking Devices (aka “vaporizers”), especially since other drugs are being used in them.


In Linn County, Marion, Center Point, Ely, Springville, Lisbon and Mount Vernon have all adopted Nicotine Free Parks.  Over 1000 communities across the nation and over 80 communities in Iowa have already made similar changes


Parks promote healthy activities

  • Community parks provide a variety of healthy, active and positive recreation opportunities to the community.
  • Tobacco-Free policies in public areas provide another opportunity to promote wellness.


Children model adult behaviors

  • Children who see adults using tobacco in a family-friendly place like a park or recreation area may think tobacco use is acceptable and are more likely to mimic the behavior.
  • Tobacco use around youth can lead to kids seeing tobacco as safer.
  • Tobacco-Free policies encourage young people to make healthy choices. The more Tobacco-Free environments a community provides, the fewer influences on youth to start using tobacco.


Secondhand smoke is dangerous

  • Secondhand smoke is unhealthy and harmful to the well-being of others.  Secondhand smoke levels in outdoor public places can be as dangerous as those found in indoor facilities where smoking is permitted.


Cigarette litter is harmful

  • Cigarette butts are one of the most common forms of litter found in outdoor areas, not to mention the packaging and other waste associated with tobacco.
  • Discarded cigarettes pollute the land and water; cigarette butts can take up to 15 years to decompose.
  • Cigarette butts may be ingested by children or animals and are also a major cause of fire.


Common arguments against TFP:

“Not enforceable”

  • Most enforcement is done by simply informing people of the expectation.
  • The vast majority of people are reasonable and follow cooperate with the expectation. Those that don’t are generally ignoring a number of rules/laws, so are likely to not follow any expectations, regardless if there are any safety issues.
  • Lastly, laws are generally not enforced 100% of the time, but this does give law enforcement a tool to use in addressing criminal activities in the parks.


“Violation of rights”

  • Using tobacco is not a guaranteed right and choices that are made in public may be limited when it puts the rights (health, safety, and life) of others at risk.
  • Not allowing the use of tobacco in the parks does create an inconvenience for those that use tobacco, but no more than what they encounter if they go to a movie or take a flight.


We can compassionately help those we care about to quit while ensuring that the health of others is not impacted and making sure that we don’t encourage the young to start.


Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Stanford University, Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Center for Disease Control

Each flag in this picture marks a piece of tobacco waste that we now know releases toxins into the soil.  Over 400 flags were used to mark the waste around one playground and pavilion.

This waste is generally in the top two most common forms of litter, leading to health and environmental concerns.  Remember, unless somebody cleans this up, usually paid city employees, this waste can take up to 15 years to decompose.