Tobacco Free Parks In Stephenson County?

Stephenson County, Illinois — In 1965, Congress required all cigarette packages distributed in the United States to carry a health warning, and since 1970 this warning is made in the name of the Surgeon General. In 1969, cigarette advertising on television and radio was banned, effective September 1970.

Smoking inside all publicly accessible buildings has been banned for decades and on January 1, 2008, the State of Illinois banned outdoor smoking within 15 feet of building entryways and outdoor ventilation systems.

According to this 2014 report, approximately 4,000 municipalities have laws that restrict where smoking is allowed. Furthermore, more than 1,000 municipalities, along with 36 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and at least 92 countries have enacted 100 percent comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, inclusive of restaurants and bars. It is estimated that as of 2014, 81% of the U.S. population live in states or communities with clean air laws in place.

Debate over the hazards and benefits of smoking has divided physicians, scientists, governments, smokers, and non-smokers since Tobacco nicotiana was first imported to Europe from its native soil in the Americas in the sixteenth century. A dramatic increase in cigarette smoking in the United States in the twentieth century called forth anti-smoking movements. One of those, Tobacco free parks.

Between November 2013 and April 2014, the Office of Recreation and Park Resources of the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign developed several questions related to this topic of smoke-free park policies in a recent statewide survey to park and recreation agencies and departments.

Five questions were developed for this section of the survey. The survey was available for completion online and by mail. All organizations without online addresses were mailed the survey directly. Agencies were contacted as many times as necessary, which resulted in approximately 1-4 participation requests.

Three types of Illinois park and recreation organizations were solicited for survey participation: county forest preserve or conservation districts, city/village/townships (municipalities or park departments) and park districts. The entire survey was distributed to 524 agencies/departments with a response rate of 359 (69%).

According to the survey, some agencies (42%) do maintain a smoke-free parks policy. However, a majority of respondents (58%) indicated their agency does not have a policy. Park districts (70%) were most likely to have this policy, followed by municipalities (29%) with county agencies (1%) least likely to have an organized policy.

On Dec. 15, 2015 the Glen Ellyn (Illinois) Park District Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to eliminate tobacco products at all of its parks and facilities. The move expanded a 2004 ordinance that eliminated smoking in park district buildings.

On Tuesday Feb 14, 2017 the Rockford Park District approved their clean air ordinance banning smoking on all RPD properties excluding golf courses. Ian Linnabary, president of the district’s board of commissioners was quoted as saying, “As a frequent visitor to all of our facilities and a father of small children, I feel very strongly that not one single child should ever be exposed to secondhand smoke on a Park District facility site.”

Currently the Freeport Park District is smoke free in select areas. You can still smoke in open areas and in places not currently restricted by the park. Those restrictions include all buildings, restrooms, enclosed or partially enclosed sports arenas, and any other facility smoking is prohibited as designated by the City of Freeport and the State of Illinois. No one is allowed to smoke in any enclosed area owned or controlled by the District.

Additionally, smoking is prohibited within 15 feet from all entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve any enclosed area as designated under this Section. There are other restrictions too.

The Stephenson County Health Department is hoping to change that policy, and move to completely Tobacco-Free parks across the board in Freeport and Stephenson County.  If successful, the move would mean Freeport, like Glen Ellyn and Rockford Park District, could have a complete ban on smoking on all Freeport Park District properties.

The Stephenson County Health Department told us they are planning to make a presentation to the Freeport Park District Board, hopefully at the June 5th park board meeting. The Health Department says they are just waiting for confirmation of the date from the Park District at this time.

“We did surveys and found the majority of Freeport would prefer Tobacco-Free parks. We will be presenting and hoping this time our board will change the policy.”

Currently most smoking restrictions within the Freeport Park District are considered a Class D violation if you break them. Class D fines are $25 as listed on this General Use Regulations Of The Freeport Park District page.

In Rockford, for a first offense in any 12-month period, the fine for violation is $125.00. For a second offense, within one year of the date of conviction for a prior violation, the fine is $250.00. Succeeding violations within one year from the date of such first conviction, the fine for violation is $500.00.

We’d like to know what you think.

Should all the parks in Stephenson County have a Park-Wide smoking ban? Or should smokers be allowed to smoke in the open free air of a park, so long as it doesn’t violate current smoking restrictions?

Feel free to chime in your thoughts, comments or feedback.



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