Los Angeles Creates Smoke Free Zones in City Parks

LOS ANGELES, California, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - Pushed out of workplaces, bars and schools, now Los Angeles smokers who want to light up in a city park will have to watch where they inhale.

To protect people from secondhand smoke, Los Angeles City and County officials announced today a smoke free park policy officially designating smoke free zones in all 375 parks and recreation centers in the city of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City park policy prohibits smoking in children's play areas and ball diamonds. No Smoking signs are being installed this month in all city parks to establish these smoke free zones.

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Baseball diamonds like this one in a Los Angeles Park are now off limits to smokers. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Dept. of Parks and Recreation)
According to a survey conducted by the Committee for Smoke Free Parks and Other Public Places (CSFPOPP) in Los Angeles County, 93 percent of those questioned supported smoke free zones in parks.

This new policy takes place at the same time that California Governor Gray Davis signed a bill establishing smoke free zones in parks throughout the state.

Both city policy, effective immediately, and the new state law, which goes into effect January 1, 2002, were created to safeguard children from the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke and hazardous tobacco waste.

"The consensus of the worldwide scientific community is that exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health risk and there is no safe level of exposure," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of Public Health and Health Officer for Los Angeles County.

"It is especially dangerous for children because when they are exposed to tobacco smoke, they have much higher rates of lung diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia and are also at greater risk of developing asthma," Fielding said.

The move meets with the approval of Sonya Vasquez, co-chair of CSFPOPP. "Not only does this policy protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke but it also safeguards small children from the perils of tobacco waste," said "Toddlers often pick up discarded cigarette butts and put them into their mouths. In doing so, they run the risk of swallowing, choking or even burning themselves with these butts."

Support for smoke free park zones throughout Los Angeles County continues to grow. The cities of Alhambra, Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Compton, Covina, La Puente, and San Fernando have already enacted smoke free park measures.

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Baseball in a Los Angeles park, smokers not welcome.
As of January 1, 2002, all California parks will have smoke free zones, but state law will not preempt local communities from establishing stronger smoke free policies.

"Survey after survey shows that people want smoke-free zones in parks," said Kevin Weiler, CSFPOPP co-chair. "Regardless of age, income or ethnicity, people are demanding smoke free zones in parks for their children as well as themselves. Even people who smoke support restrictions designating smoke free zones."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen - a substance known to cause cancer in humans. There is no safe level of exposure for Group A toxins. The EPA says that secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and many of which are strong irritants.

Passive smoking is estimated by EPA to cause approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year.