Clearing the Air for Our Kids

With a 10-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son both active in soccer and baseball leagues, our family spends a lot of time in area parks. When we’re in our parks we never escape evidence of tobacco debris that’s been thoughtlessly thrown away, whether it’s cigarette butts, spit-out chew, or tobacco packaging.

And though it doesn’t happen all of the time, more often than we’d like we have to move away from someone who’s smoking or vaping. Yes, even at a kids’ sporting event. It’s alarming to our children when they see or smell someone smoking or vaping and they always speak up loudly about their dismay. They know I work in public health and that I want everyone to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

My family

I think as a community we should all be working to support Smoke Free and Vape Free ordinances in our public outdoor parks and recreation areas. Two instances in the last year have reaffirmed this belief.

Last winter, as we waited in line for The Polar Express™ Train Ride in Carson City someone ahead of us was vaping. It was virtually impossible to get out of the exhaled vape trail. I found this all the more disturbing having read the results of an e-cigarette study by the Desert Research Institute published online in October 2016 in the Environmental Science & Technology journal. The researchers measured several toxic aldehydes produced by three popular brands of e-cigarettes with flavored and unflavored e-liquids. Each one produced toxin levels that exceed occupational safety standards. This is what was coming out of those e-cigarettes and looming over my family while standing in line, not some harmless water vapor.

Last summer we were at Wild Island Adventure Park and were caught in the secondhand smoke from people vaping in the outdoor lawn area. It was sickening and seemed so out of place, particularly since that was an area where smoking was clearly restricted. I know people, too, who’ve been caught in a similar situation when they were floating down the Lazy River and were caught in the smoke from the bar area at Kokomo’s Island. Fortunately, I’ve just learned that Wild Island has made the positive decision to ban outdoor smoking and vaping throughout its Adventure Park. Smokers will be allowed to smoke only in one designed spot in the parking lot. That’s great news for my family and yours!

The bottom line is, there’s no safe level of exposure to either vaping or secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a human carcinogen and there are immediate health consequences on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems that my kids – and yours – shouldn’t have to face. Studies show that irritation from secondhand smoke begins 13 feet from the source and odor can be detected 23 feet away.

If you support Smoke Free/Vape Free ordinances in public parks and recreation areas throughout the Truckee Meadows as I do, let your voice be heard: Take a short, 3-question survey.

Daniel M. Cook, Ph.D, is Associate Professor, School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a member of the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition and the Northern Nevada Action Committee, whose mission is to promote the expansion of tobacco-free workplaces and outdoor public spaces in Nevada.

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