Summer is prime season for heading out to the park or attending a local festival. It's a time to gather with family and share the spirit of community. But too many of us are sharing more than spirit.
Too often, a great time out can be ruined by someone else's bad habit. And when it comes to second-hand smoke, it can be more serious than just spoiling a good time.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing 38,000 to 65,000 nonsmokers every year. Secondhand smoke levels in outdoor public places can reach levels as high as those found in homes where smokers live and smoke indoors.
That means the guy or gal smoking next to you at the concert is potentially affecting your health and the health of your children. You have a right to speak out about it.
Communities throughout the U.S. are creating tobacco-free outdoor recreational facilities out of concern for the health of their citizens. Cities in Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and California have adopted tobacco — free policies for their outdoor recreational facilities. It is time for Allen County to join these cities in protecting their citizens from the health dangers of secondhand smoke.
There are ways you can help make that happen:
• Support smoke free events this summer by asking the coordinator of your next public event to make it smoke free.
• Protect your children from secondhand smoke. Ask your parks department to ban smoking on park property.
• Coaches and recreational leaders become tobacco-free role models that send a powerful message to youth that tobacco use is not part of a healthy lifestyle. Politely ask you kids' coaches to refrain from using any tobacco products when around your children.
• If someone is smoking near you or your children, ask them not to. Be polite and explain your concerns. You have a right to ask them not to do it around you.
Tobacco free policies in parks and other public venues are similar to policies prohibiting alcohol use, littering, and picking up after your pets. Policy makers are responsible for enacting policies that protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens of their community. So you can encourage your public policy makers to adopt tobacco-free policies.
And remember, 78 percent of Allen County residents do not use tobacco products, so tobacco-free policies are largely self-enforcing and can be properly enforced with a combination of adequate signage and community education.
To find out how you can help, go to www.activateallencounty.com. And remember to share your ideas for making Allen County a healthier place with us on Facebook.