HJ/EDApril 17, 2006

Dassel parks go tobacco-free

The Dassel City Council voted 4-to-1 April 3 in favor of making city-owned parks and outdoor recreation areas tobacco-free.

Under this policy, no person will be allowed to use any form of tobacco on city-owned park land, in any city-owned buildings, recreational concession, restroom, spectator areas, trails or open spaces.

A Dassel-Cokato High School youth organization, Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), proposed a tobacco-free parks policy to the Dassel City Council March 20, after the Dassel-Cokato School Board unanimously passed a resolution of support March 16 for the City of Dassel to adopt such a policy.

TATU proposed a tobacco-free parks policy because it believes that tobacco use in park areas is harmful to the health of everyone using the park system and can be offensive to those using recreational facilities.

“TATU spends time educating younger students in the schools. We send a clear message to youth to never use tobacco because it is harmful to their health. TATU members also make a commitment to model that tobacco-free behavior,” said Nick Clasemann, senior TATU member.

Sam Hoyhtya, also a senior TATU member, said, “Tobacco-free policies are the logical next step in our communities. The bottom line is, TATU feels these tobacco-free parks policies help to change the social norm around tobacco.

“Our goal is to prevent youth in our communities from ever using tobacco, while encouraging those who use to quit.”

The Dassel City Council believes that tobacco use in the proximity of children, youth, and adults engaging in or watching recreational activities is unhealthy and detrimental to the health of others.

Tobacco products consumed in public spaces are often discarded on the ground, thus posing a risk of ingestion to toddlers and causing a litter problem.

Furthermore, parents, leaders, and coaches are thought of as role models and the use of tobacco products around youth has a negative effect on their lifestyle choices.

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Dr. Don Hainlen, Dassel-Cokato schools superintendent.

“What I appreciate most about this project is the process. This group of committed high school students spent eight months researching tobacco-free parks policies, creating a PowerPoint presentation, gathering community support, and drafting language for the proposed policy. The Dassel City Council validated TATU’s efforts by adopting this policy . . . TATU’s success is inspiring to the entire school district, especially other students.”

TATU will be working with city officials to communicate the new tobacco-free policy, including posting signage and distributing materials describing the policy and other tobacco prevention resources to all youth leaders, coaches, and parents. Enforcement of the policy will come via the signs and community awareness measures.

The Tobacco-Free Youth Recreation (TFYR) program, a statewide tobacco prevention program, is providing Dassel with metal tobacco-free signs free of charge.

“We are pleased to add Dassel to the growing list of Minnesota cities with tobacco-free park policies,” said Brittany McFadden, director of TFYR. Currently, 77 cities in Minnesota prohibit tobacco use in their park areas.

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