Smokers and tobacco users urged to refrain from using products at area playgrounds
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Heath advocates and educators are encouraging smokers to snuff out their cigarettes and refrain from using tobacco products at playgrounds to give youth a healthy environment to play in.
The Community Health Improvement Committee meets once a month in Grayling to plan and spearhead health initiatives.
Members on the committee include Cheryl Melroy, the community health manager at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital, Alice Snyder, the director for the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center, Kim Chandler, the health promotion manager for District Health Department #10, Nicole Persing-Wethington, the disease prevention and social health supervisor for the Crawford Michigan State University Extension office, and other health educators.
All members are part of the Crawford County Human Services Collaborative, a group which is responsible for establishing and advancing strategies to achieve and maintain a healthy community.
One issue the District Health Department #10 and the Grayling hospital is focusing on is to curtail the use of tobacco use to improve the health of the community.
According to county health rankings, the rate at which women who smoke during pregnancy is 40.7 percent for Crawford County. That is compared to a rate of 27 percent statewide and 17.3 percent for the 10 counties which the District Health Department #10 covers.
The percentage of adult smokers in Crawford County is 40.7 percent, while the rate for the state is 20 percent.
Although Crawford County has a smaller population compared to other counties, the high rate of tobacco use is a concern.
“The goal is to try to bring awareness to the issue to let people know that we’re much higher than the state average and then to try to change the culture,” Melroy said.
One initiative launched by heath care advocates at the start of the summer is establishing playgrounds as tobacco free zones.
The committee worked with the City of Grayling Parks and Recreation Committee to establish the playground in the Grayling City Park as a tobacco free zone.
“It’s really about young lungs at work,” Melroy said.
Employees from the City of Grayling’s Department of Public Works have had to pick up cigarette butts and other tobacco products from the playground in the past.
A sign was placed in the park, encouraging tobacco users to take a break around kids who are playing.
“Although it’s not like it’s an enforceable law, it’s something people can point to and say this is a tobacco free playground and it includes all forms of tobacco,” Melroy said.
Along with not exposing children to second-hand smoke, the initiative is meant to provide positive role models.
“We know too that young kids are influenced by their surroundings, so if they see adults or even younger older adults doing those sorts of things, then it becomes more acceptable,” Melroy said. “It’s not only changing this so it is less acceptable, but it’s changing the culture.”
The committee also worked with Grayling Charter Township, Hanson Hills, Frederic Township. Beaver Creek Township, and Lovells Township to make playgounds tobacco free zones.
Frederic Township established entire parks in its jurisdiction as tobacco free.
“We are really trying to make all of Crawford County tobacco free playgrounds,” Melroy said. “Wherever there is a playground for kids we want them to be tobacco free.”
The committee hopes to get tobacco users to stop using products, invest the funds in a healthier lifestyle, and cut down on youngsters picking up the habit.
“People are spending a lot of money on those things, when they could be maybe doing something more healthy,” Melroy said.
The committee is also trying to educate people that stopping use of tobacco will cut down being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease later in life.
Similar initiatives were launched through the District Health Department #10 in Manistee County and Kalkaska County.
“It’s really bringing that awareness to communities in northern Michigan,” Melroy said.
Having the signs placed in the park helped with the Relay for Life and Kid’s Day during the AuSable River Festival, events which were held in the Grayling City Park in July.
“Having the signs posted, it was easier for the people that were participating in the Relay for Life to say this is tobacco free playground, can you please put your cigarette out,” Melroy said.
The initiative is part of coordinated planning efforts to improve the environment in the Grayling area.
“As we try to improve all areas of Grayling, I think one thing that would draw people to our community is a culture of health,” Melroy said.
The initiative adds to the bike paths, walking routes, and programs hosted at Hanson Hills to help residents and visitors improve their lifestyles.
“It’s just another way to try to embrace health,” Melroy said. “It’s something that doesn’t just change in a day. It’s takes time to make change, but awareness is the first step.”
Residents seeking to stop smoking and tobacco use are encouraged to call the Michigan Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-784-8669. They can also reach the District Health Department #10 office in Grayling at (989) 348-7800, or Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital at (989) 348-5461.
Patients can also consult with their doctors.
“Really it’s a conversation they need to have with their primary care provider,” Melroy said.