Some Sanders County parks will be tobacco-free zones
Secondhand smoke levels in outdoor public places can reach the same levels found indoors, where smoking is allowed. With the recent Sanders County Park Board policy that was enacted, local kids are protected from the harms of secondhand smoke. For more on tobacco-free park policies, go to tobaccofree.mt.gov. (Photo courtesy Sanders County)
| August 25, 2020 5:42 PM
Sanders County high school students “vape” even more than Montana teens on the average.
Forty-three percent of Sanders County high school students reported using electronic vapor products in the 30 days before the January 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, administered every two years by the state Office of Public Instruction. The survey revealed a statewide average of 30 percent.
Nationwide, the average for teen “vape” use at that time was 28 percent.
This young age group is particularly likely to take up electronic vapor product “vaping” as well as other tobacco habits, if they are exposed to tobacco use, according to the study published last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health (King, Smith, McNamara and Cao, “Second Generation Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Vape Pen Exposure Generalizes as a Smoking Cue,” Nicotine Tobacco Research 2017).
Due to high fire danger, park cleanliness and other reasons such as above, the Sanders County Park Board has designated the areas it administers as tobacco-free, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Use of cigarettes, chew tobacco, cigars, cigarillos and electronic vapor products are no longer allowed at Cherry Creek Boat Ramp, Heron Boat Ramp and Dog Lake recreation area.
At Riverside Park in Plains, use is permitted in a specified area. The park, adjacent to the Sanders County Fairgrounds, is a significant recreation spot, includes a playground, covered picnic shelters, and riverfront beach.
With the tobacco-free designation, the park board looks to the cooperation of the community.
“Smoking, especially right now with our tinder dry conditions, can be dangerous in campgrounds and outdoors. When you see cigarette butts laying around, they make a camping site look unclean and in some people’s minds, ugly,” said Sanders County Park Board Chairperson Julie Molzahn. “It takes a long time to pick up butts where people just throw them down, because it’s not like you can sweep up a camping spot. You have to clean them up because little children will pick them up and play with them or worse yet imitate an adult and put the butt in their mouth.”
“Tobacco use is addictive, this county has lots of underage children who smoke, chew or vape. It’s not healthy and can cause long term-health issues. In having county park board sites being tobacco free, we are working to develop and model healthy lifestyle choices for our young people,” Molzahn added.
“Tobacco-free areas help community members to model healthy norms,” said Sanders County Tobacco Prevention Specialist Sandra Gubel.
“Tobacco-free parks show youth that not using tobacco is a healthy norm. Not using tobacco shows the way to live healthy lives,” she added.
The use of e-cigarettes among Montana’s high school students is six times that of Montana adults. In contrast to the younger age group, tobacco cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among Montana adults.
In 2017, 17 percent of Montana adults smoked cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System report. This also means that 83 percent of adults in the Treasure State do not smoke cigarettes.
“Both adults and teens are highly encouraged to reap the health benefits of cessation,” said Gubel. “We need to consider the health of everyone who goes to places to recreate,” she added.
The new policy for Sanders County Park Board-administered areas, also protects against secondhand smoke exposure.
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In fact, even brief exposure can be harmful to health.
Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known carcinogens, and these chemicals can be detected nearly 30 feet away from the source.
Signs marking the new policy have been installed at each of the sites. Educational signs are also posted.
For more information on tobacco use trends, call Sanders County Tobacco Prevention, 827-6901.
For free help (coaching and gum/patches/lozenges for those who enroll), call the Montana Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Teens under the age of 18 can receive confidential help to stop their habit by enrolling in online, phone or chat coaching. Go to MyLifeMyQuit.com or text “start my quit” or call 1-855-891-9989.