Letter to the Editor: Young lungs at play in Clay County parks


Here in Clay County, we’re fortunate to have great shared spaces like our many beautiful parks to enjoy with friends and family. And as with any good fortune, we must all work together to keep these parks pristine and welcoming to locals and visitors. Every person in the county should be free to enjoy the great outdoors without exposure to toxic smoke and litter. It’s time to call for new strong policies that keep deadly tobacco out of our parks.

When the Florida Clean Air Act was updated this summer, it allowed communities like ours to introduce new rules to make our local beaches and parks smoke-free. Our community can now regulate the use of most tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in these municipal locations. Many cities and counties throughout Florida have already taken this critical step to protect our public places. You can help your friends and neighbors in Tobacco Free Clay by asking commissioners to join the progress and make our parks smoke-free.

There are so many good reasons to update our county’s laws. No one wants to see parks cluttered with cigarette butts – by far the single most significant source of litter. It would have great environmental benefits – cigarette butts contaminate the water supply, poison animals and marine life, and can be ingested by animals or even small children. Disposable vapes, pods and other e-cigarette components also add to the dangerous and disgusting litter threatening our community.

Removing smoking and vaping from places like Moody Ave Park, Moccasin Slough Park and Ronnie Van Zant Park will eliminate environmental hazards and reduce exposure to potentially deadly secondhand smoke.

But perhaps most importantly – if we dedicate to having Clay County parks be a location for active, healthy outdoor lifestyles in public places rather than somewhere for tobacco use, we can model for young people a great opportunity to set out on a life of positive health behaviors.

Through policy implementation, education, and awareness, we can continue improving health outcomes for our local youth and every resident. Passing an ordinance prohibiting smoking and vaping in our local county and city parks can create a cleaner environment and reduce the risk of secondhand exposure. Call our county commissioners today and tell them you want clean, safe and healthy parks for our young lungs at play.

William Meeks



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