Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Cheh receptive to smokefree playgrounds measure


flickr photo courtesy of Ants Colony

The good news from today’s hearing by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment on two smokefree playground bills: The committee’s chair, Mary Cheh (Ward 3), was extremely receptive to the testimony of those who spoke. She said she would like to expand the scope of the bill, possibly to include all parks and bus shelters.

The bad news: Cheh was the only member of the committee who attended the hearing. It was a shame that the others weren’t there, because those who testified were thoughtful, well-informed and well-prepared. No one spoke against the bills, 20-93 and 20-95.

Some who testified focused on the health effects of secondhand smoke, particularly on children. Others talked about the need to change social norms that encourage kids to start smoking at an early age.

Those testifying included representatives from the American Heart and Stroke Association, the D.C. Cancer Consortium and Breathe DC. Government witnesses came from the Department of Health and Department of Parks and Recreation. Cheh listened carefully and asked thoughtful questions.

We at Smokefree DC testified, pointing out that new research shows that nonsmokers must be quite a distance from smokers outside to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. If we are to protect children from toxins while they are in the playground, then by extension, we should make all parks smokefree, since children don’t just confine themselves to the playground.

Cheh was receptive and suggested that transit shelters be made smokefree, which those testifying agreed with.

Jim Bogden, a volunteer with Smokefree DC who was testifying as a representative of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS), a nonpartisan policy and program resource center at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, told Cheh that D.C. school officials seem to be unaware of legislation approved by the Council that makes school grounds tobacco-free – including school parking lots and sports fields. Cheh was not pleased to hear it.

The next step? We go to a mark-up, probably a few months from now.

If you think the Council should make all playgrounds, parks and bus shelters smokefree, call or email them.



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