BELLEROSE, NY – Funded by a grant from the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership, the North Shore-LIJ Health System helped the Cross Island YMCA to establish a smoke-free outdoor air policy to protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The initiative was announced at a special education program today with children and their parents at the Cross Island YMCA, which coincides with National Kick Butts Day, an event that focuses attention on community activism by boys and girls to take a stand against tobacco.
As part of Kick Butts Day, youngsters at the Cross Island YMCA’s after-school program joined more than 2,000 schools and organizations nationwide in anti-smoking education activities. Elementary and middle schoolers from Queens attended an informative and creative poster session in which student teams designed artwork that illustrated the hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke. Led by Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, CDN, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ, the program not only teaches students about the risks of tobacco but also empowers them to speak up against smoking. Finishing up the program, about 40 students performed a rap song pledging not to “puff” or smoke.
Adolescence and young adulthood are the times when people are most susceptible to start smoking. According to a report by the US Surgeon General’s Office released this month, almost one in five high-school teens smokes. The report says more needs to done to stop young people from using tobacco because those who start smoking as teens are at a higher risk for reduced lung function, early heart disease and other health problems such as asthma.
“Smoke-free outdoor spaces protect children and adults from inhaling dangerous second hand smoke,” said Ms. Copperman. “Children are especially vulnerable to second hand smoke because their lungs are still developing and the smoke can cause worsening of symptoms of children with asthma. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Just 30 minutes of exposure to second hand smoke can increase the risk of blood clots and can lead to more frequent asthma attacks in asthmatic children.”
Tobacco kills more New Yorkers each year than AIDS, drugs, homicide and suicide combined. Each year in the United States, second-hand smoke exposure is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children younger than 18 months. This results in 7,500 to15,000 hospitalizations annually.
“The Cross Island YMCA is committed to improving the health of our youth, members and the community by implementing a Smoke-Free Outdoor Air Policy for our facility and grounds. All of our entrances, parking lots, playgrounds and tennis courts will be free from the 250 chemicals found in tobacco smoke,” said Dana Feinberg, executive director of the Cross Island YMCA.
"I am proud of the Cross Island YMCA for helping to increase awareness
and provide education to protect our children from the dangers of smoking," said Yvette Jackson-Buckner, borough manager for the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership. "As the US Surgeon General's report demonstrates, there are far too many young people still using tobacco and smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin almost
immediately. We must do all we can to help our youth from becoming the next generation of smokers."
Smoke free outdoor air policies have been shown to:
- protect people, especially children, from exposure to secondhand smoke;
- encourage cessation from tobacco use;
- honor employees’, customers’ and visitors’ right to breathe clean air;
- set an example for the youth of our community;
- decrease tobacco litter and related hazards associated with discarded cigarette butts – fire, accidental ingestion by children and hazards to wildlife; and
- reduce environmental toxicity and facilitate the preservation of land and water for conservational and recreational purposes.
For more information about how your organization can establish smoke-free outdoor air policies, contact Ms. Nancy Copperman in the North Shore-LIJ Office of Community Health at 516-465-3180.