Students want smoke-free parks in Elgin

  • Joseph Madrid and Xochitl Gomez, both 14, are among teens from the Youth Leadership Academy program in Elgin who are petitioning the city to make all its parks smoke free.

    Joseph Madrid and Xochitl Gomez, both 14, are among teens from the Youth Leadership Academy program in Elgin who are petitioning the city to make all its parks smoke free. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted3/31/2015 5:30 AM

A group of students hopes that Elgin will become the first city in Kane County to ban smoking from public parks.

Members of Elgin's Youth Leadership Academy are planning to lobby the city's parks and recreation advisory board after making a presentation to the Elgin City Council earlier this month. Smoking in public parks, especially near playgrounds, is harmful particularly to youth, they said.

 

"We want to reduce secondhand smoking and to raise awareness for the harmful effects," said Sergio Perez, a freshman at South Elgin High School.

Joseph Madrid, a freshman at Elgin High School, said inhaling smoke at the age of 25 or younger prevents the lungs from fully developing and harms the earth's ozone layer to say nothing of the cigarette butts litter.

"The health benefits of passing this ordinance is that not only we will have cleaner parks, but we will have a healthier community," he said.

Elgin Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said he's in favor of the idea -- with the exception of golf courses.

"Besides it being a negative influence on the children -- we don't want them to get into bad habits -- you see cigarette butts laying around, and the guys have to pick that up. It's a maintenance issue."

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However, a smoking ban in the city's three golf courses likely would discourage smokers from playing, Reopelle said.

"Smoking cigars and golfing kind of together," he said. "I think that would hurt us revenue wise. We want the golf courses to be self-sustaining."

The results of a survey of 32 Elgin residents conducted by the students seems to support that notion.

The survey shows that -- on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being fully in agreement -- people gave an average 4 or above in favor of smoke free parks, skateboard parks, playgrounds, outdoor festivals, swimming pools and hiking trails, said Jordan-Lyndsay Morris, volunteer health educator with the Kane County Health Department.

However, the average for smoke free golf courses was 3.7, said Morris, who mentored the students for the project funded by a $3,500 grant through the Illinois Department of Public Health.

There are no smoke-free parks in Kane County municipalities, but another group of students is working on a similar petition in St. Charles, Morris said. Cities like Waukegan and Chicago have smoke-free parks, she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"So far we haven't got a lot of pushback," she said. "This is a trend, not just in Illinois but around the whole United States, of doing smoke-free policies in parks."

The Elgin proposal also will include a ban on e-cigarettes, whose advertisers are targeting youth, she said. "It's about preventive action and being healthier role models," Morris said.

Reopelle said he expects the parks and recreation board to ask staff members for research on the topic before making a recommendation to the city council.

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