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Norwood News Bronx, NY:  December 16 - 29, 2010

Should Parks and Beaches Be Smoke-Free ?


By JUAN RAMON RIOS -Highbridge Community Life Center

As a child I always enjoyed going to our Bronx beaches and parks with my family. While affluent children enjoyed collecting seashells by the seashore, I remember fondly picking up cigarette butts so we could spell out our names with them.  Little did we know of the harms of secondhand smoke and the impact discarded cigarette filters would have on our environment. 

The facts are indisputable and alarming.  Smoking kills more New Yorkers each year than AIDS, drugs, homicide and suicide combined, and the Bronx has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the city. Secondhand smoke is a known Class A carcinogen. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to more frequent asthma attacks in asthmatic children. Cigarette butts are toxic, slow to decompose, costly to manage and growing in volume; 75 percent of the litter found on NYC beaches is cigarette butts, and it takes over a year and a half for a cigarette filter to decompose. 

I am pleased to announce that NYC residents and policymakers are taking a strong unified stand to protect our children and environment. In the fall, the City Council introduced legislation to make our public parks and beaches smoke-free. Highbridge Community Life Center, a community based organization serving Bronx residents’ concerns and needs for over 30 years, has joined the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership in bringing awareness to the community and its leadership about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the impact cigarettes have on our parks and beaches. Indeed, Highbridge Life has recently secured a unanimous vote by the Health Committee of Community Board #4 for a “letter of support” to prohibit smoking from our public beaches and parks. 

With legislation in the works, our children could soon have the right to play on beaches and in parks that are smoke-free and clean.





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