Health districts urge Norwich to ban tobacco from city parks

Norwich - Officials from the Uncas and Ledge Light health districts are asking Norwich officials to consider making city parks tobacco free to reduce health risks and provide a positive role model to children.

Patrick McCormack, director of the Uncas Health District, and Cindy Barry, senior program coordinator for Ledge Light District, presented the City Council Monday with a report titled "Making your Parks Tobacco Free," written by Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change of New London County. The group was founded as a heart disease and stroke prevention effort.

The group is a coalition of 16 health, human services and civic organizations promoting tobacco-free parks, public buildings and even public housing throughout the county.

The group presented the report to officials in all towns in the county and members are making presentations when invited. Norwich was the first of the seven Uncas Health District towns to request a presentation.

The report included a map of New London County color-coded to depict the towns that have ordinances, policies or rules against smoking in public parks. Thus far, Groton City, New London and Montville have ordinances in place against tobacco in parks. East Lyme, Ledyard, Preston, Lebanon and Colchester have policies in place against tobacco use in parks. And Groton Town and Lisbon have rules in place against tobacco use in parks.

McCormack said town officials are choosing the types of rules they want to set to best fit their needs. Towns have chosen varying ways to enforce the bans. Some might ask groups that rent park pavilions and sports fields to police themselves, with warnings that they might not be invited back if the fields are strewn with cigarette butts.

He said the bans also reduce litter in public parks.

After the presentation, Mayor Deberey Hinchey said she supports the concept of banning tobacco use in parks. She said the city doesn't have any tobacco-free proposals in the works, but as a career clinical social worker, she strongly favors the effort to ban smoking from city parks. She added that banning smoking from public housing would be "very tough."

McCormack studies have shown that having tobacco-free parks reduces the chance that kids will smoke.

"Obviously, kids model the behavior they see," McCormack said.


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