RIDGEWOOD, NY – To commemorate the Great American Smoke Out, the Ridgewood Queens YMCA, with the help of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, educated 36 of the YMCA’s preschoolers and some of their parents about the harms of smoking and secondhand smoke.
The Great American Smoke Out is an annual awareness event aimed at helping people quit smoking or for people to make a plan to stop smoking. The Ridgewood YMCA also used the occasion to establish a smoke-free outdoor air policy in collaboration with the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership, part of an effort to protect people from secondhand smoke. The Ridgewood YMCA’s new outdoor air policy prohibits smoking within 15 feet of its entrances or exits.
During a ceremony on Thursday, children from the YMCA sang about the dangers of smoking. The youngsters and their parents also were presented with information from Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, CDN, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ, about the ills of smoking and how it is marketed to young children.
“Our perspective is to promote smoke-free environments, so that it will make it easier for smokers to quit and stay quit as well as prevent youth from becoming smokers,” Ms. Copperman said. “The Ridgewood YMCA has made a public commitment to the health of its members, staff and the residents of Ridgewood to become a smoke-free facility both inside and outside of the facility. Ridgewood residents will breathe easy as they will no longer have to walk through a cloud of tobacco smoke to enter or exit the facility.”
People are most likely to start smoking in their adolescence and young adulthood. More than 600,000 middle schoolers and three million high schoolers smoke cigarettes, according to a US Surgeon General report. About 90 percent of smokers began this habit before the age of 18, the report said, adding that the younger children are when they start smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted.
Another important issue to help keep young people from smoking is recognizing the marketing of tobacco products to children. In 2010, about one third of the top money-making movies created for children had images of smoking, the US Surgeon General report found.
“The Ridgewood YMCA is committed to the health of our community. This smoke free outdoor air policy will ensure that our sidewalks and entrances are free from the harms of secondhand smoke,” said Caitlin Moonesar, membership and healthy lifestyles director of the Ridgewood YMCA. “Our kids, teens, and families will be able to come into the Ridgewood YMCA knowing there will always be clean air in and around the Y.”
“I applaud the efforts of the Ridgewood YMCA for taking an important step to help protect the health of their youth, members and community,” said Yvette Buckner, Borough Manager for the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership. “They are leading the way to raise awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke and committing to limit exposure for everyone that walks through their front doors.”