On January 11, the Grandwood Park Park District passed a policy making all its property and vehicles tobacco and smoke-free. This district is now Illinois' first completely tobacco-free park district.
Teens in the Lake County chapter of REALITY Illinois, a tobacco prevention group, played a role in the District's decision. Last November, they presented information on tobacco-free parks to the board, including the benefits of tobacco-free parks for the environment, the community and overall public health. They also presented survey data they collected from over 1,200 Lake County residents and 150 residents in the Grandwood Park zip code. Survey results showed that 84 percent of residents support tobacco-free parks.
"We are excited that the Park District decided to go tobacco-free and smoke-free, because these are two different things," said REALITY Illinois member Anna Heinrich, 17, of Gurnee. "It makes sense to do this because tobacco-free policies include chewing tobacco and related litter which harm the environment, damage the health of smokers and non-smokers, and set a bad example for the community. In addition, by State law all public school grounds are already tobacco-free so making public parks tobacco-free reduces confusion about what the rules are in which parks."
In its policy, Grandwood Park Park District states that it will not allow smoking and/or tobacco use of any kind on its property or in any district vehicle because it believes that smoking/tobacco use in the proximity of youth and adults engaging in or watching recreational activities is detrimental to their health and can be offensive to those at such locations.
"This is great news," said Barbara de Nekker with the Tobacco Free Lake County program of the Lake County Health Department, "Tobacco companies are manufacturing new smokeless, dissolvable tobacco products that look just like candy. But because of this new policy, children won't see them in Grandwood Park Park District. By passing such a strong policy, Grandwood Park Park District is showing a genuine commitment to the health of their community, their youth, and the environment."
Grandwood Park Park District joins one other park district in Illinois, the Round Lake Area Park District, with a tobacco-free policy (with the exception of its golf course), and several communities in Lake County that have already made their parks smoke-free. They include Beach Park, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Hawthorn Woods, Highland Park, Vernon Hills, and Zion.
The Lake County chapter of REALITY Illinois is coordinated by the Tobacco Free Lake County program at the Lake County Health Department and is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health. For more information about tobacco-free parks, or to join REALITY Illinois, contact Tobacco Free Lake County at 847-377-8090, TFLC@lakecountyil.gov or visit www.lakecountyil.gov/health/tobaccofree.
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Photo: (left to right, front row) Grandwood Park Park District Commissioners Jerry Courser, Nancy Carlson, Linda Anderson, Diane LeClair; (back row) REALITY Illinois teens Araceli Mena, Danielle Grazier, Selena Sedano, Joannah Rivera, and Anna Heinrich, and Lake County Health Department staff Barbara de Nekker and Emily Hutter.