Huntley Park District playgrounds now smoke-free
Playgrounds within Huntley Park District are now smoke-free.
Signs are posted throughout the district's 10 parks prohibiting smoking within 30 feet of playgrounds.
The signs and a postcard campaign to educate park district patrons were funded through a $5,400 grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health's We Choose Health initiative.
The Smoke-free Illinois Act, which became law Jan. 1, 2008, prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces, including offices, theaters, museums, libraries, educational institutions, schools, commercial establishments, enclosed shopping centers and retail stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs and gaming facilities.
While the state ban applies to park district buildings and facilities, extending it to open-air spaces within parks, such as playgrounds, is a newer trend, officials said.
"Some (park districts) do go totally smoke-free," said Debbie Kraus, Huntley Park District recreation director. "This is an opportunity for us to start talking about smoke-free (policies) and no smoking, especially in the playground areas where there are young children. It's self-enforced, and we are hoping other individuals that are not smokers will enforce it too."
Neighboring Lake in the Hills parks department also has a similar rule.
"We do not allow smoking or the use of smokeless tobacco products within 15 feet of play areas or shelters," said Laura Barron, Lake in the Hills parks director.
Barron, who previously worked for Oakbrook Terrace Park District, said many park districts in DuPage County are starting to adopt similar policies.
"Warrenville Park District is completely smoke-free throughout their parks," she added.
Huntley's new rule hasn't been tested yet, since the playgrounds largely remain dormant during winter months.
"Spring and summer of 2015 would be a good (test drive)," Kraus said.
Funding for the We Choose Health initiative comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Huntley Park District Executive Director Thom Palmer said officials may now consider extending the no-smoking rule to other open areas within the parks where people congregate.
"They have to be definable areas. We want to protect folks that are in a concentrated area," he said, citing the Tomaso Sports Park as an example. "We have an area there that is the center of the ballfield core, the center of the four diamonds."
Palmer said smokers are encouraged to be considerate of nonsmoking patrons in crowded areas.
"We haven't had too much of a problem," he said. "Right now, we have kind of a courtesy situation. It's not a full policy, but it might be a direction that we go. Any rules, policies or regulations that you put out there, you have to look at how you enforce them. If folks want to partake in something that is legal to do, and it is not bothering anyone else, they should have the freedom to do that. Hopefully, the entire population is trending to a more healthier choice."