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Spring is in the air, which means no more mornings spent de-icing the car windshield to get to work in the morning. No more spending every daylight hour at work or school. It is time to sign the kids up for baseball, take in a concert at the Mosquito Serenade and get active outdoors. As a result, young and old alike will soon flock to our parks, trails and community events. Anyone who does this in the City of Anderson will get an added benefit this year— smoke-free air.
Over the winter, the City of Anderson received community concerns about secondhand smoke where residents work and play. The City responded by approving an ordinance that prohibits smoking at outdoor locations where children and residents are most likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke. These locations include Volonte Park, the Veterans Walk of Honor, all community events, and entrances to local businesses.
In spite of decades of research and education on the harmful effects of tobacco use, it has long been the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States and Shasta County. Making a personal decision to smoke is one thing, but breathing secondhand smoke is not less dangerous than smoking a cigarette. Even being exposed to secondhand smoke outdoors is dangerous. In fact, a person near an outdoor smoker might inhale a breath that contains 50 times more toxic materials than if that person were breathing near a non-smoker.
Smoke-free environments in the City of Anderson just make sense. Residents and children often cannot avoid smoke-filled air at entrances to buildings where they do business. Parks, trails and community events are designed to promote community health and host a number of youth-oriented activities. Anderson’s policy will even help keep parks and events free from tobacco litter.
Not only does Anderson’s policy protect community members from secondhand smoke, but it also sends a positive message to the next generation. Children model the behaviors they see in adults. Seeing adults smoke at parks and community events piques curiosity about smoking and may lead to experimentation. In other words— what we allow, we teach.
So, if you are heading to Anderson to enjoy the Mosquito Serenade, do some shopping, watch a Little League game or just relax outdoors, please remember that these are smoke-free areas. We all have a role to play in keeping these places safe. Pointing to a no smoking sign, calling the violations hotline, or deciding to put away a cigarette are just some examples.
If you smoke and would like to learn how to enjoy these places smoke-free, you may visit www.tobaccofreeshasta.org for local resources and information on how to quit smoking. For more information on the ordinance, please visit the “Smoke-Free Anderson” webpage.
Donnell Ewert, MPH, is director of Shasta County Public Health. While at Wheaton College, he participated in the Human Needs and Global Resources program, which included a seven-month internship in Honduras – an experience that sparked his interest in public health. He earned his master’s degree from UCLA after evaluating a program that used goats to increase the nutritional intake of malnourished children. He worked briefly as a health educator with migrant farm workers in Virginia before becoming an epidemiologist for the health departments in Los Angeles and the state of Indiana. Donnell came to Shasta County Public Health as an epidemiologist in 1999, after doing humanitarian health work in Kazakhstan. He has been the department director since 2007. He and his wife, Mary, have two teenage daughters.