There’s been a lot of hullabaloo in New York State these past few years about decisions to create tobacco-free parks and recreational areas in local communities. In the GLOW region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Counties), we’re working with local health officials, community leaders and citizens to encourage a tobacco-free policy for Genesee & Orleans County parks and municipal grounds. At least 20 municipalities  have already adopted policies.

Why create policies for safe and healthy living environments for children and families? The answer may seem obvious, but not to everyone. Here are three reasons.

First is the social-modeling aspect. Children are notorious for modeling behaviors they see in adults and their peers. Both children and teens will model adult behavior if they feel it is a right-of-passage or that the behavior has been normalized by the older generation. So, if a municipality adopts a policy restricting  the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes, they can help change the perception that using these products is acceptable. Why perpetuate a health crisis in New York State if we can take positive steps now to decrease the negative impact on the next generation?

Secondly, policies that are in line with public health concerns — like tobacco use policies at schools, parks and other public settings — are important for creating healthy environments and encouraging children to live healthier.

The third reason: Environment. Discarded cigarette butts pollute our parks, pose a fire hazard and risk ingestion by toddlers and animals. Surgeon General and Center for Disease Control (CDC) has repeatedly warned that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. There is also no strong evidence that e-cigarettes provide a safe alternative to using combustible tobacco products. 

Why adopt tobacco-free policies for Genesee and Orleans County Parks? The answer is simple: For the health of everyone who lives, works and plays in our community! Smoking cigarettes or using vapes, e-cigs or hookahs is not a constitutionally protected right. It’s a personal “privilege” that is not above the right to breathe clean air, protect our environment and reduce the probability of fires or ingestion by children. 

If you’re interested in supporting this, please sign the Petition in Support of Tobacco-Free County Parks at:


By Kevin Keenan, Community Engagement Coordinator, Tobacco-Free GLOW