San Antonio parks should be smoke/tobacco-free
Over the last year, the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department has undergone a comprehensive public planning process to develop the SA Parks System Plan. This process served as a guide to future planning decisions impacting service delivery to San Antonio residents concerning capital improvement needs, operations and recreation programming in parks.
As a result of an extensive public engagement process, the SA Parks System Plan included a proposed recommendation of smoke- and tobacco-free parks. During the general public and stakeholder review of the draft plan, there was no opposition to the recommendation that parks become smoke/tobacco-free. The community and stakeholder support received is evidence that San Antonio is ready for this key public health change.
The initial recommendation emerged out of a petition with more than 400 signatures from the Woodlawn Lake Community and users of Woodlawn Lake Park asking for their park to be smoke/tobacco-free. In subsequent community feedback sessions, Parks has heard time and time again the request for San Antonio’s parks to be smoke/tobacco-free. Our major stakeholders, including the Parks Foundation, San Antonio River Authority, Market Square Merchant Association and the San Antonio River Walk Association have also expressed their support for the recommendation.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use is associated with cancer, heart disease, behavioral and learning disorders, drug use and pregnancy complications. Tobacco use causes half a million deaths annually and has been responsible for 20.8 million premature deaths in the U.S. over the past 50 years since the Surgeon General’s first report on smoking in 1964. Nationally, the current amount of health care and lost worker productivity costs related to tobacco use is $300 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In order to protect the health and safety of all residents and park visitors, city parks and public plazas must become smoke/tobacco-free, joining 52 other Texas municipalities that have already adopted smoke/tobacco-free parks ordinances.
Late last month, the Parks and Recreation Board supported the inclusion of smoke/tobacco-free parks as part of the SA Parks System Plan, both as a public health solution and in response to public input. Tobacco use in parks and public plazas is detrimental to the health of everyone who uses the parks system and can be offensive to those using recreational facilities.
This smoke/tobacco-free policy provides the opportunity to change community norms around tobacco use and models healthy lifestyle choices which help reduce tobacco use among youth.
This proposed ordinance change will prohibit smoking and all forms of tobacco use in all city parks and Greenway Trails, the River Walk and in all public squares, such as Market Square and La Villita.
Following City Council’s recent passage of Tobacco 21 and the current smoke-free ordinance, we are confident that this bold change within our parks and recreation spaces will have a dramatic effect on San Antonio’s health.
By adopting this policy, San Antonio is helping reduce the rate of tobacco use in the community and is demonstrating that our parks and public plazas are where people go to improve their fitness and enjoy nature. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke simply don’t belong.
Jennifer Herriott, is the interim director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, and Xavier D. Urrutia, is director of San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department.