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Parks Commission takes smoke-free stand

POSTED January 11, 2013 8:18 p.m.

The Turlock City Parks, Recreation and Community Programs Commission made a commitment to support a smoke-free policy at all public parks.

Stanislaus Advocacy Action Team’s project director Ken Fitzgerald made the case for smoke-free parks during Wednesday's Parks and Rec Commission meeting.

StAAT was originally developed by the Stanislaus County Office of Education in response to an increase of tobacco use. The StAAT is anticipated to serve the general inhabitants of Stanislaus County as a tool for training and technical assistance to avoid tobacco use and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Fitzgerald’s presentation strived to abolish smoking at parks within the City of Turlock to avoid secondhand exposure to children and adults and decrease tobacco littering.

“In outdoor areas, cigarette smoke can reach up to 20 feet. If you can smell it, it is affecting you. There is no safe level of exposure,” Fitzgerald said.

Secondhand smoke was declared a toxic air contaminant by the California Air Resources Board and is estimated to cause roughly 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the United States.

Fitzgerald’s second goal  is to keep the parks clean of cigarette butts, which are made of cellulose acetate and contain over 165 toxic chemicals. Since cigarette butts are non-biodegradable, Fitzgerald is concern that children or animals can be poisoned if ingested.

A large cylinder was displayed at the meeting with 7,400 cigarette butts collected from neighborhood parks, which is about a year’s worth of cigarettes for a regular smoker. Countywide, the team collected a little over 16,000 cigarette butts, 1,977 of which were found in Turlock.

“If we prevent smoking in the park, it will decrease the littering and promote healthier, cleaner areas,” said Fitzgerald.

Part of the presentation included information on random surveys taken by 500 people across Stanislaus County about smoking in public places. The vast majority of survey takers suggested restricted smoking in parks, community outdoor events, and playgrounds.

Fitzgerald suggested Turlock should be a model town to encourage affirmative action in smoke-free parks and innovatively lead the way for other towns.

“Over 140 California cities and counties adopted smoke-free park policies. Riverbank is one of them; city wide it is smoke-free. The City of Patterson is also looking at this model for their parks,” Fitzgerald said. “We are falling behind. I think we are not really setting the example.”

In order to implement effective policies, Fitzgerald suggested posting signs that encouraged compliance against smoking in the parks and publicizing the new policy through the media.

The Commission voted to create a letter supporting the notion of smoke-free parks in the City of Turlock.

For more information about StAAT, visit stancoe.org/go/staat.

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