Local Initiative Pushes For Smoke-Free Parks

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It's been banned in bars and restaurants, but now parks may be the next place that puts smokers out.

"The hope is that we’ll have smoke-free parks in Rock Island County," says Jennifer Johnson, Health Educator with the Rock Island County Health Department.

In September, the Rock Island County Health Department was awarded a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control. Johnson says they're calling it the "We Choose Health" campaign.

"My focus is smoke-free outdoor spaces," says Johnson. "Studies have been done to show that really it's just as dangerous to be around someone smoking outside as it is inside."

Currently, Green Valley Sports Complex is the only park in Rock Island County that's smoke-free. Moline also prohibits smoking in all playground areas.

It would take a city ordinance to ban smoking in city parks, which Johnson says would promote a healthier lifestyle and remove a large percentage of litter in those areas.

"This I easily collected at a Rock Island County area park," explains Johnson as she holds up a clear, plastic tube full of cigarette butts and debris. She says cigarette butts are the most littered item in the country and take 20 years to break down.

Not everyone agrees with Johnson. News 8's Angie Sharp spoke with some park-goers in Rock Island County on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013. All three were mothers, who say they think a ban may be too strict and they'd be fine with a designated area for smokers that is some distance away from the playgrounds.

"It wouldn't hurt to have it away enough that people can still watch their own kids if they're smokers," says Lisa Moritz, from Coal Valley.

"That way people are not over there watching their kids, smoking a cigarette, helping other kids go down the slide," says Robin Bacon, from East Moline.

"If they make a specific area for it, then everybody can enjoy the park," says Ladaetra Ross, from Rock Island.

Johnson says she is looking for feedback. You can contact her at the Rock Island County Health Department by calling (309) 558-2950. She says she will be interviewing park-goers herself and bringing that information to city councils in Rock Island County in hopes of bringing about some change.

California and Florida already have smoke-free parks as well as Lake County, Illinois. In Iowa, there is a smoking ban in certain parts of city parks, but not the entire parks itself.