Our community parks are constantly full of activity. From young children running and playing to adults sharing quiet time, they are a gathering place for everyone. The parks are meant for everyone to enjoy, and there are significant reasons to keep them tobacco free:
- Decrease environmental impacts of tobacco and decrease clean-up costs
- Promote healthy social norms for children
- Make parks more accessible for those living or recovering from asthma, cancer, and other chronic disease
- Support those individuals who are trying to quit tobacco use
Cigarette filters are not biodegradable and are the most littered item found during litter clean-ups. Although ultraviolet light will break filters down over long periods, the cellulose acetate and other toxins in the filter, leach chemicals (benzene, nicotine, cadmium, lead, arsenic) into the water and soil.[i] Municipal cost savings are particularly important when parks and recreation departments are facing budget constraints. Every pack of cigarettes has an estimated cost of $0.22 in litter removal[ii]. For example, during a 20-minute cleanup of Kirk Park, Monforton School students picked-up an overwhelming amount of tobacco litter; nearly ½ gallon of cigarette butts.
Promote Consistent Healthy Social Norms for Children
Tobacco addiction is a pediatric disease; ninety percent of adult tobacco users started before age 18.[iii] By mirroring the Montana Tobacco Free School’s Law, tobacco free parks would create consistency with healthy social norms among places children play. Tobacco-free policies support a normative message that tobacco use is unsafe and that nonsmokers have the right to be protected. This is especially significant for children because they are strongly influenced by their perceptions of “normal” behavior.[iv] [v] Youth are more likely to use tobacco if they see that tobacco use is acceptable or normal. [vi] Places that serve youth should be protected spaces for children.
The Surgeon General has determined there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. [vii] Children are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke is harmful not only indoors but also in outdoor settings[viii]. Being within a few feet of a burning cigarette outdoors can produce secondhand smoke levels comparable to indoor environments.[ix] Tobacco free environments would increase accessibility for those individuals living with or recovering from chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer, and COPD.
Support individuals making quit attempts
Tobacco free policies are a strong motivator for individuals trying to quit tobacco. Tobacco free workplace policies have been associated with increased cessation attempts among employees. [x] According to the 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment of Gallatin, Madison, and Park Counties, 48.8% of local smokers are trying to quit and 79.3 were advised by their doctor to quit smoking. Tobacco free parks would provide support throughout their quit attempt.
[i] Novotny, TE, et al. (2009 May) Cigarette butts and the case for an environmental policy on hazardous
cigarette waste. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Heath. Accessed online at:
CrossRef PubMed CrossRef PubMed Reducing Tobacco Use: A Report of the Surgeon General(http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2000/index.htm). Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2000 [accessed 2015 Jul 24].
[vii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.
[viii] Hall JC, Bernert JT, Hall DB, St Helen G, Kudon LH, Naeher LP. Assessment of exposure to secondhand smoke at outdoor bars and family restaurants in Athens, Georgia, using salivary cotinine. J Occup Environ Hyg 2009;6(11):698–704. CrossRef PubMed
[ix] Shwartz, M. (2007, May). Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in outdoor settings a risk, study shows. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/may9/smoking-050907.html
[x] Albers AB, Siegel M, Cheng DM, Biener L, Rigotti NA. Effect of smoking regulations in local restaurants on smokers’ anti-smoking attitudes and quitting behaviours. Tob Control 2007;16(2):101–6. CrossRef PubMed