“Go get some fresh air.”
We’ve all heard it. The age-old advice received from friends, family, or coworkers. It’s well-known that being outdoors leads to increased physical and mental health. Maybe that stroll you took to get some “fresh air” led you to a park. What happened to your fresh air if you came across someone smoking a cigarette?
According to a 2006 report from the Surgeon General, even brief exposure of secondhand smoke can be harmful and the evidence suggesting that it causes illness and death is “massive, conclusive, and indisputable.” Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) released a statement supporting tobacco-free parks across the country.
Who is this NRPA, you ask? It is the nation’s leading organization for the advancement of parks and recreation facilities that supports all parks across the U.S. You know, the outdoor space that connects people of every age, gender, ethnicity, or faith while promoting physical activity through exercise or leisure. The NRPA recognizes the diversity of people drawn to parks and have cited their commitment to the health and wellbeing of the public in regards to a ban on tobacco products.
Does this all sound familiar? That’s because there have already been efforts in our community for this cause! By prohibiting these products, our parks and other recreation facilities join the movement to protect visitors from being exposed to secondhand smoke. This includes children, who could be easily influenced by witnessing the behavior of smoking.
Not only does a commitment to tobacco-free parks shield park-goers, it will also protect the environment and wildlife from the four trillion cigarette butts littered every year. These products take years to decompose, cause harm to wildlife that ingest them, damage park greenery and can even trickle into our water system.
While protecting visitors and wildlife, tobacco-free parks allow for more public awareness on the dangers of using tobacco while promoting health equity. These key factors encourage guests to engage in physical activity across lines of health disparities and inspires personal development through reduced secondhand smoke exposure and better respiratory health. All this from a simple change in behavior.
But in the grand scheme of things, there are thousands of parks across the U.S., so what does it mean when we say that the NRPA supports tobacco-free parks? It means that they are supporting an effort that is already happening! 1,266 park and recreation agencies across the U.S. have already declared that their facilities are tobacco-free. Locally, this includes Greenwood Village, Golden, Fort Collins and Boulder. On top of efforts from the local level, the NRPA plans to remove all tobacco receptacles and ash trays while educating and training stakeholders about the attitudes and beliefs around tobacco use.
So next time you need to get some fresh air, wander over to the closest park. You may find clean air and earth thanks to our local efforts and the NRPA. Are your local parks not tobacco-free yet? Sign up to join our cause.