Updated 11/18: Smoking ban sought at Lake County parks, beaches
Are public parks and beaches going to be the next places to go smoke free?
Lake County health officials and a group of local teens are urging local park districts and towns in the county to consider banning smoking in outdoor parks, playgrounds, beaches and other outdoor recreational facilities.
The Smoke Free Illinois Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, banned smoking in nearly all indoor public places, including bars, restaurants, casinos and workplaces.
But some park districts and towns have gone even further to extend bans to parks and other outdoor public places. Buffalo Grove Park District prohibits smoking in all of its outdoor park and recreational facilities.
Other villages including Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Libertyville, Lindenhurst and Hawthorn Woods also have smoke-free ordinances in public parks. Highland Park, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff also prohibit smoking on beaches.
Local health officials hope that other park districts or towns will follow suit.
"Second-hand smoke is bad, whether it's inside or outside," said Barbara de Nekker, community health specialist for the health department's Tobacco Free Lake County program.
Kris Andersen, coordinator of the Tobacco Free Lake County program, said children congregate in public parks and playgrounds and they can be hurt by the effects of second-hand smoke.
Also, she said cigarette butts often are not properly disposed of and become a major source of litter in parks and beaches. De Nekker said cigarette butts and tobacco-related trash accounted for 44 percent of the debris found on Illinois beaches in 2005 according to the International Coastal Cleanup.
"It's a health issue and it's bad for the environment," said Andersen.
In early November, health department officials held a training meeting at the Libertyville Sports Complex for teens interested in working to create tobacco-free parks. Thirteen teens from the Lake County chapter of the Reality Illinois youth group attended the training session including students from Carmel, Vernon Hills, Zion-Benton and Stevenson high schools.
Grishma Pandya, a former Mundelein High School student and former Reality Illinois youth member who now attends Loyola University, said she has talked to the teens about ways to encourage park districts or communities to enact outdoor smoke-free policies or ordinances.
She said students will be picking up cigarette butts in parks, surveying residents about what they think about smoke-free parks, and talking to local park officials about the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Pandya, who worked to promote the county and state indoor smoking ban in 2007, thinks making parks smoke free makes sense. Pandya said the goal is not to infringe on smokers' rights to light up outside their homes or in their cars, but rather to restrict smoking in parks and outdoor public places where others can be exposed to smoke.
"A park is a place for children and the issue is second-hand smoke," she said.
Mike Rylko, executive director of the Buffalo Grove Park District, said the district adopted a policy in July 2005 prohibiting smoking on all park property, including athletic fields, playgrounds, pools and bleacher areas.
Rylko said there has been very good compliance with the ordinance from the public and they've received few negative comments about it, mostly from smoking rights groups outside the town.
"We've had a lot more positive feedback than negative on the whole ordinance," he said.