Local Teens Make Difference in Community to Ban Tobacco from Parks
One can do a lot of things at the St. Charles Park District, but as of October 27, smoking isn’t one of them.
Thanks to the efforts of teen members of the STC Underground Teen Center, the St. Charles Park Board approved the new policy which strictly prohibits the use of tobacco and tobacco products in all park district outdoor parks, facilities, buildings and vehicles.
“It has long been established that tobacco is a harmful and dangerous carcinogen,” said Laura Rudow, Superintendent of Parks and Planning. “We are grateful to the STC Underground teens for raising awareness of this issue and working toward the betterment of the health and welfare of the entire community.”
The awareness project began in May, 2015, when STC Underground members appeared before the park board to advocate for a smoke-free parks ordinance as part of a statewide program called REALITY Illinois. An anti-tobacco movement created by and for Illinois teens, the program reflects teens’ concern about this serious health movement through its self-described “in-your-face, stand-up-and-shout, not-taking-it-anymore” approach. Working in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Kane County Health Department, REALITY Illinois hopes to spread the word about tobacco industry marketing tactics, message manipulation, dangers of second-hand smoke and tobacco use throughout the state.
A group of dedicated STC Underground teens began meeting once a month in 2014 to work on their smoke-free initiative, and developed a survey to determine the level of community support for a smoke-free parks policy. Of the 116 surveys completed, a majority showed strong support for the new policy.
“We are proud to know that our community is behind this initiative,” said Rudow.
The policy states that any person who uses tobacco in a prohibited area shall be guilty of an infraction that is punishable by a fine of up to $50. Violations may also result in the suspension or revocation of that person’s right to use park district property.
Signage stating the new smoke-free policy will be installed on all appropriate park district buildings, grounds and facilities.
A unique place for teens to “hang out,” the STC Underground was established in January, 2001, as a safe, professionally-supervised facility, open to all middle and high school students residing within St. Charles or attending Community Unit School District #303 schools. There are currently more than 775 local teen members who enjoy the Underground’s vibrant mix of events, activities, study nights and special trips.
By working on the REALITY Illinois smoke-free ordinance, STC Underground teens not only increased their own awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, they learned important civic lessons in how to bring about real change at a policy level.
“This type of grassroots initiative has always played an important part in community administration,” said Darby Beasley, Teen Program and Center Director. “The STC Underground teens can take great satisfaction in their work to help enact this ordinance.”
To support the STC Underground Teen Center, call Teen Center Director Darby Beasley at 630-513-4321.