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posted: 7/15/2010 12:01 AM

Round Lake area parks to go tobacco free

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  • Teen members of REALITY Illinois watch as Barbara de Nekker fills a plastic tube with cigarette butts collected at the skate park in Round Lake Beach.

      Teen members of REALITY Illinois watch as Barbara de Nekker fills a plastic tube with cigarette butts collected at the skate park in Round Lake Beach.
    Courtesy Tobacco Free Lake County


Smoke-free will be taken to another level at Round Lake Area Park District facilities.

Beginning Aug. 1, not only will smoking be banned from all park grounds, but so will any tobacco product, including chewing tobacco and new entries that have yet to hit the Lake County market.

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One exception is the district's Renwood Golf Course, where only the driving range and the area within 30 feet of the first tee will be subject to the new rule.

Products such as smokeless tobacco tablets, strips and sticks can have a novelty feel and attract the interest of youths, said Barbara de Nekker, a community health specialist for the Lake County Health Department, which runs the Tobacco Free Lake County program.

She also is a co-sponsor of the area chapter of REALITY Illinois, which is coordinated by Tobacco Free Lake County and is comprised of about two dozen teens from six schools.

The Round Lake district's tobacco-free policy is the first in Lake County and may be the first in the state, according to de Nekker.

Supporters say smoke free and tobacco free are different, but it is important to include the smokeless products in any policy that includes cigarettes.

The tobacco prevention group last year successfully lobbied the Vernon Hills Park District to go smoke free and this year were invited to make a presentation to the Round Lake Area Park District.

The Lake County chapter of REALITY Illinois, one of 14 chapters, observed park board meetings, collected two big tubes of cigarette butts and conducted surveys before making their pitch.

"We went to Indianapolis and got samples," de Nekker said. "They (Round Lake park board) got to it before the products are even out there."

Three other park districts and eight municipalities, including Beach Park, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Hawthorn Woods, Highland Park, Vernon Hills and Zion, already have made their parks smoke free. But this step, approved by Round Lake park commissioners June 10, expands the range.

"From the board's perspective, it seemed to make a lot of sense," said Jeff Nehila, park district executive director. "It fits into our mission statement of promoting healthy lifestyles."

The park district has ordered 137 small signs to be installed in parks in about a month. Nehila didn't foresee fines being levied for violators.

"We're looking for self-compliance. It's going to be a continual education process," he said.

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