When it comes to parks and outdoor public spaces, the main purpose of instituting tobacco-free policies is to combat the damaging effects of secondhand smoke. In 2012, the CDC determined that roughly 58 million nonsmokers in the United States, and two out of every five children ages 3 to 11, were regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. Although parks and outdoor public areas are meant to be safe and healthy environments, the presence of secondhand smoke can make potential park users shy away. In the long run, a decrease in public support and park visitors because of secondhand smoke concerns could result in people being skeptical of funding for park projects if they believe that their concerns are being ignored.
There are also environmental and cost-savings benefits associated with tobacco bans. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable, meaning they will remain visible until they are removed. In fact, a 2011 study published in Tobacco Control estimated that “tobacco product litter” comprises up to 36 percent of all visible litter, with estimated removal costs ranging from $3 million to $16 million.
To learn more about why tobacco-free parks are so important, click here.
The White flag project – The Mason City High School Cross Country Team participated in a park’s tobacco litter cleanup in 2019. White flags indicate collected tobacco litter. The youth ran out of flags after 750 tobacco litter locations were marked for the demonstration. Besides cigarette butts, other tobacco materials were collected within the 2-hour activity in Mason City’s Central Park.