As evidence of the dangers of secondhand smoke continues to rise, many communities have passed tobacco-free laws that cover outdoor areas such as parks, recreational facilities, beaches, outdoor workplaces, and public events such as county fairs and farmers’ markets. Locally, Rutland City passed a ban on all tobacco products in Rutland City parks in October 2010.
With policies increasing all over the country, many might ask, are we going too far? Is it necessary to create a policy to protect public health?
Exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to a wide range of serious and life threatening health problems including heart disease, cancer, asthma and other respiratory problems. Recent studies have found that outdoor secondhand smoke exposure levels can be significant, particularly when smokers are in close proximity to others.
If only everyone who smokes considered those around them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Smoke- and tobacco-free policies help to protect the health of everyone since they limit where someone is able to smoke. For some people, a change in behavior will only occur if a policy is in force.
Outdoor policies that prohibit the use of all tobacco products can help reduce the potential for exposure to dangerous, toxic chemicals, as well as the litter that comes from tobacco products. Policies create healthy spaces where families can play without the threat of exposure to harsh chemicals and potential health problems.
With the warmer weather approaching, people will venture outside to enjoy nature and a healthy breath of fresh air. Communities adopting smoke-free policies are making sure that the air we breathe stays fresh and healthy for years to come.
Tina Van Guilder is program director for the Rutland Area Prevention Coalition