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Health group recognizing towns with tobacco-free parks

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Scott Pagona, left, and Ayden Mayor Stephen Tripp unveil the new tobacco-free parks sign.

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The Daily Reflector

Thursday, March 8, 2018

AYDEN — A local health promotion group is recognizing the towns of Ayden and Winterville for implementing tobacco-free parks in their community.

Pitt Partners for Health, a coalition aimed at improving the health of Pitt County, will present certificates to representatives of both communities during a ceremony being held at 8:30 a.m. today at the Ayden Arts and Recreation Department.

“There is simply no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Dr. John Morrow, Pitt County Health Director. “Tobacco-free parks eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke levels in these community outdoor places.”

Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a greater risk of developing respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks, Morrow said. There is also a direct correlation between secondhand smoke and chronic diseases among adults.

Tommy Duncan, the director of Ayden’s arts and recreation department, presented the idea for a tobacco-free ordinance to the Ayden Board of Commissioners in October 2017. The idea gained support, and the ordinance went into effect on Jan 1.

The Town of Winterville also joined the effort to promote healthier parks in January.

Farmville was the first town in Pitt County to pass a tobacco-free parks policy. A resolution making the parks tobacco-free was passed in 2013, according to Matt Johnston, director of parks and recreation for the town.

Along with Morrow’s presentation of the certificates, Sally Herndon, branch head of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch at the North Carolina Division of Public Health, will speak on the importance and evolution of tobacco prevention strategies across the State.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure are the leading preventable causes of illness and premature death in the nation. According to the Air and Waste Management Association, cigarette and tobacco litter is the number one item littered in our parks and creates a health and safety hazard to small children and wildlife, and distracts from the natural beauty of the environment.

For more information about tobacco-free living in North Carolina, by visiting www.tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov.

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