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Number of tobacco free parks in West Michigan growing

The District #10 Health Department has identified 73 tobacco free parks in the ten-county region the department serves.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The push is on to make more parks in West Michigan tobacco-free.

It's an effort being led in Oceana, Mason, Manistee, Newaygo, and Mecosta counties by District Health Department #10.

"It's starting to get more of a push lately," said District #10 Community Health Coordinator Karen Ripke.

The health department has identified 73 tobacco free parks in its district to date, and others may be added by this summer.

Ripke is currently working with municipalities in the ten-county region she covers. 

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"Our parks are where we want to go to do health activities," Ripke said.

The effort would decrease exposure, and the subsequent health consequences, of secondhand smoke to the public.

Ripke says tobacco-free encourage healthy living and would reduce excessive litter of cigarette butts at parks.

"You don't see them until you all of the sudden see them," Ripke said. "And then you see them everywhere."

According to District #10 Community Health nearly 87% of tobacco users start before the age of 18. 

Municipalities like Fremont recently passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking in all city parks. 

Other communities place signs at parks.

Mason County has 14 tobacco-free parks, in Manistee County there are 23.

"It's just trying to create a norm, that your parks are a healthy space for people and so creating that healthy space includes not allowing any type of smoking," Ripke said.

All county park beaches in Ottawa County prohibit smoking and South Haven has a beach smoking ban too. 

The District #10 Health Department has grant money to use this summer to help communities cover the cost of adding tobacco-free signs at parks.

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