The last thing you want to see when you’re spending a day at the park with your family is the ground covered by used cigarettes. In hopes to prevents children from being exposed to tobacco, Lawrence Parks and Recreation have started a new campaign to make all 54 parks in the area tobacco free.
“Tobacco free parks is important for Lawrence because it really de-normalizes the smoking and tobacco use,” Kait Perry, Health Promotion Specialist at the Lawrence Community Health Center, said. “So a lot of the time, if kids see people smoke or use tobacco, it re-normalizes that behavior.”
According to the University of Washington, children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to begin smoking between ages 13 and 21. For Lawrence resident, Ahli Arkeketa, she is confident that this new policy will decrease the amount of smoking exposure around her five-month-old son, Benjamin.
“We’re not a smoking family so it would be nice for him not to see that anywhere else either,” Arkeketa said.
The Lawrence Community Health Center says that even though we may be seeing fewer people using tobacco nowadays, it is still a huge epidemic that hits close to home. Perry says that most people in Douglas County die from tobacco use or tobacco related illnesses. However, not only are they hopeful this will keep children from smoking, but this policy will also help keep the parks clean.
“There’s so many cigarette butts everywhere and it would be nice not to have them all over the place where kids can reach them,” Arkeketa said.
The Lawrence Community Health Center, along with Lawrence Parks and Rec, are hopeful to get other cities on board with this campaign and they say so far, the amount of feedback they have gotten back from residents has been overwhelmingly positive.