2012-06-02 / Viewpoints

YOUNG LUNGS AT PLAY

By Jenny Wagner

(Jenny Wagner is a director of tobacco cessation services with the Northcentral Tobacco Control Coalition and can be reached at 1-800-264-1290 or jwagner@coginc.org)

In celebration of World No- Tobacco Day (May 31), we honored Wellsboro Borough, Wellsboro Area School District and Bradford-Tioga Head Start for eliminating children’s exposure to secondhand smoke at local public parks and playgrounds through the “Young Lungs at Play” program.

Why are communities joining Young Lungs at Play?

First, secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and can cause many serious illnesses in children including asthma, respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances as smokers. There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even brief exposures can be harmful.

Next, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. Discarded cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are toxic, hazardous to the environment and costly to cleanup.

And lastly, when children see adults smoking in family-friendly places such as parks and playgrounds, they see the behavior as acceptable.

Young Lungs at Play is a no-cost parks and playgrounds program supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participation is easy. A local government or a community organization adopts a policy, ordinance or resolution that prohibits the use of tobacco products in parks, playgrounds, recreational fields or where children play. Our organization then supports each community in its efforts to create tobacco-free policies by providing free Young Lungs at Play signs to be posted in designated tobacco free areas. The signs are attractive, self-enforcing and promote a positive tobacco-free message.

We invite all townships, boroughs and school districts in the region to join current participants in protecting our children’s exposure to secondhand smoke at local public parks and playgrounds by participating in the Young Lungs at Play initiative.

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