Hanover County, VA (August 29, 2022) – The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department made the decision to update its parks rules prohibiting tobacco- and e-cigarette-use in all of its outdoor recreational areas, effective August 16, 2022. This process began last February, when Samaria Walker, a student from nearby J.R. Tucker High School and a Y Street leader, met with Ashland Parks and Recreation staff to advocate for 100% tobacco-free and vapor-free parklands. The effort continued in May when Samaria was joined by her fellow Y Street leader and Hopewell High School student Anita Hall to present to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Committee, sharing their testimony on why protecting Virginia’s parklands by making them free of tobacco smoke and litter and vape aerosol is important to them. Following the committee’s recommendation for adoption, the Ashland Town Council voted unanimously at their last meeting to adopt tobacco and e-cigarette-free policies for all its public recreational spaces.
Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s (VFHY) statewide volunteer initiative for high school students. Y Street members like Samaria and Anita strive to make sure Virginians have equitable access to clean and healthy spaces and do this by promoting the Share The Air campaign. Share The Air aims to create 100% tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free parklands by encouraging parks and recreation directors and other local government officials to adopt tobacco-free outdoor policies.
Research has demonstrated that a strong majority of Virginians (90%) agree that parklands should be tobacco-free and vapor-free. Additionally, Virginians (88%) feel strongly that secondhand smoke is a dangerous hazard outdoors, and that tobacco and e-cigarette products cause damage to the environment (92%).
“Life these days can be so busy,” Samaria notes. “So when I do have time to spend outdoors, it’s very important to me. It also means so much more to be able to do that without being exposed to tobacco byproducts.”
With Ashland partnering with the Share The Air campaign and joining other park leaders in promoting clean outdoor air, more Virginians now have healthier outdoor spaces where they can gather and be active. When asked about Ashland’s decision to partner with Share The Air, Ashland Parks and Recreation Coordinator Emmy Houck replied “going tobacco-free in Ashland’s outdoor spaces is an action step towards realizing the goals set forth in our 2017 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. We want to create an inclusive environment that promotes the well-being of our community and improves quality of life. Ensuring our spaces are tobacco-free encourages a welcoming, clean, and safe environment for park-goers. Ashland has a vibrant and engaged community that values the Town’s parks and recreation offerings. Going tobacco-free will continue to serve our citizens and further enhance the appeal of our park system.”
About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)
Established in 1999 by the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth empowers Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by reducing and preventing youth tobacco and nicotine use, substance use, and childhood obesity.
VFHY takes a comprehensive approach to prevention work that includes reaching about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, day cares and prevention programs across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaigns deliver prevention messaging to more than 500,000 children annually. In addition, VFHY’s research program provides scientific insight on methods to effectively reduce tobacco use. Since 2002, VFHY has funded 40 large research projects at universities throughout Virginia. For more information, visit www.vfhy.org.