News and Events

The Importance of Tobacco Free Outdoor Policies in Levy County
March 22, 2018

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County has been working to help community organizations establish tobacco free policies for outdoor community events. To date, the partnership has worked with the Cedar Key Old Florida Celebration of the Arts Festival, the Levy County Fair, and the Tri-County Community Resource Center to develop policies. These policies prohibit tobacco use at their community events to protect the residents of Levy County from secondhand smoke exposure.

It has been well established that people who are exposed to secondhand smoke tend to suffer from a wide range of health problems including asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other respiratory problems.(1)  Exposure to secondhand smoke for children is also extremely dangerous to their health. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of asthma, ear problems, acute respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even though most studies have looked at secondhand smoke exposure indoors, several recent studies have found significant secondhand smoke exposure levels outdoors, especially when smokers are in close proximity to others.(2)  People who suffer from respiratory illnesses often choose not to attend events where they may be near tobacco use, due to the triggering effect it can have on conditions such as asthma.

Outdoor tobacco free policies don’t just prevent secondhand smoke exposure. They also help smokers who are trying to quit by eliminating smoking triggers, such as the smell and sight of tobacco use. Tobacco free outdoor policies also send a clear message to kids that tobacco use is not a community norm.(3) There is also concern that allowing people to use e-cigarettes in smoke free areas can cause confusion for policy enforcement. It can also renormalize “smoking-like behavior,” which results in fewer adults who may choose to quit tobacco use and more youth who may choose to initiate tobacco use.(4)  Due to this, several states and local jurisdictions are amending their smoke-free laws to include electronic smoking devices.

Finally, Levy County is known for its abundant natural resources. Cigarette butts are a non-biodegradable form of litter that can take decades to break down in the environment. They are the single most collected item in international beach cleanups.  Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members in Cedar Key participate annually in the International Coastal Cleanup and they have picked up over 10,000 cigarette butts to date.

Tobacco product litter, including cigarette butts, are expensive to clean up, unsightly, and extremely harmful to wildlife and waterways. They can affect the impression customers have of a business, especially if they are right outside the entrance. Additionally, chemicals produced from wet cigarette butts can affect groundwater and rivers. Human health can also be affected by tobacco waste, if children play with discarded cigarette butts or consume them.(5) Cigarettes are also a major cause of outdoor fires, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in annual costs in property losses, environmental damage, restorative efforts, and firefighting expenses.(6)    

Outdoor policies that prohibit the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, can help reduce the overall amount of tobacco product waste, as well as maintenance and cleanup costs, not to mention protect all residents from secondhand smoke exposure. If your business or organization is interested in working with the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County to pass a policy to create tobacco free grounds or events, please contact Kristina Zachry at KZachry@QuitDoc.com or 352-577-4309.

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References

  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: Report of the Surgeon General (2006), http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/report/index.html
  2. See, e.g., Xisca Suredo et al., Secondhand Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Open and Semi-Open Settings: A Systematic Review, 10 Environmental Health Perspective 1289 (2013), http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1205806; James Repace, Benefits of Smoke-free Regulations in Outdoor Settings: Beaches, Golf Courses, Parks, Patios and in Motor Vehicles, 34 WM Mitchell Law Review 4 (2008).
  3. See Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, Regulating Tobacco Use Outdoors,(2014),http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/tclc-guide-tobacco-use-outdoors-2014.pdf
  4. See Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, Regulating Electronic Cigarettes and Similar Devices, (2017), http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-guide-reg-ecigarettes-2016.pdf
  5. See, e.g., Thomas E. Novotny et al., Tobacco and Cigarette Butt Consumption in Humans and Animals, 20 Tobacco Control i17, i18 (2011), http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/20/Suppl_1/i17.full.pdf+html; see also Thomas Novotny et al., Cigarette Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste, 6 Int’l. J Environmental. Res Pub. Health 5 (2009), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697937/
  6. See, e.g., National Fire Protection Association, Smoking-Material Fire Problem (2013)(analysis of U.S. fires started by “smoking materials,” i.e., cigarettes, https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Fire-causes/Smoking-Materials