Shenandoah County, VA (September 30, 2022) – Earlier this year Central High School student and Y Street member Ashley Coulson met with the Winchester Parks and Recreation Department’s newly appointed Director Chris Konyar to discuss the issue of tobacco and e-cigarette-use in outdoor public spaces. She explained how tobacco and e-cigarette-use in outdoor areas produce litter that is not only unsightly but poses significant health and environmental hazards. Ashley encouraged the town of Winchester to adopt tobacco- and e-cigarette-free outdoor policies to create healthier outdoor experiences for residents. This was a message that resonated with the Winchester Parks and Recreation Department. For several months, the department worked and collaborated with local officials to establish its parklands as 100% tobacco-free. In September, Winchester showed its commitment by reinforcing its local ordinance that prohibits tobacco and e-cigarette in its outdoor recreational areas and committing to becoming Share The Air’s newest partner locality.
Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s (VFHY) statewide volunteer initiative for high school students. Y Street members like Ashley and others in Shenandoah County strive to make sure Virginians have equitable access to clean and healthy spaces and do this by promoting Y Street’s campaign Share The Air. 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%).
When asked about the outcome and her impact on Winchester’s decision, Ashley responded “it felt really empowering to be able to get my voice out there. I’m happy that they took the information I shared into consideration and put it into action. My family is super outdoorsy so having spaces that are now tobacco-free makes me feel good that we’ll be able to fully enjoy the outdoors.”
With Winchester partnering with Share The Air 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 Winchester’s decision to partner with Share The Air, Winchester Parks and Recreation Director Chris Konyar replied “the mission of Share The Air matches the City of Winchester’s overall mission, especially the goal of strengthening Winchester by fostering a safe, healthy, and diverse community for all with ample opportunities for recreation, wellness, and cultural activities. Outdoor spaces in the Winchester Community should be tobacco free to foster clean and healthy outdoor spaces.”
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.