by Georgia Slater
Until secondhand smoke was deemed a health risk, smoking in outdoor and public areas wasn’t a problem. As more people become concerned with the health and safety of their own communities, towns including Westfield have taken the laudable initiative to prohibit people from smoking in parks.
According to westfieldnj.gov, the Westfield Town Council approved an ordinance that bans smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, in all municipal parks. The council also ruled that if the smoking ban is violated, the first fine is $50 and increases to $500 for additional offences. Ms. Naomi Stahl of NJ GASP, a tobacco control policy and legal resource center supporting smoke-free air and tobacco-free lives, thanked the council for taking this initiative.
The initiative of the ban limits secondhand smoke, which cdc.gov defines as a serious public health hazard. Even brief exposure can cause immediate harm to both children and adults. A smoke-free environment will improve the health of the general population.
In Westfield, parks are used for kids to participate in sports, or for residents to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Further, smoke-free environments help adults model healthy behavior for kids and can encourage people who smoke to smoke less or even quit, according to changelabsolutions.org.
Like Westfield, more than 500 communities nationwide already have laws establishing smoke-free parks, and they are stepping in the right direction—without leaving a carbon footprint.
In addition to the health benefits of smoke-free parks, this ban also means less litter. According to preventcigarettelitter.org, 65% of cigarette butts are littered, and these are a significant hazard for park animals.