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Virginia Students Are Sparking Action To Create Tobacco-Free Parks

Richmond, VA (March 2023) – This week, Y Street, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s (VFHY) statewide teen-volunteer initiative, is going into their communities to engage residents in tobacco-free messaging and advocate for tobacco-free parks and outdoor recreational areas. Parks are dedicated spaces within communities that provide kids and adults a space to be active and gather outdoors. At a time when Virginians are happy to get outdoors, Y Street members are striving to make sure Virginians have equitable access to clean and healthier outdoor environments through its campaign, Share The Air.

Share The Air aims to create 100% tobacco-free parklands by encouraging local parks and recreation departments and government officials to adopt comprehensive tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free outdoor policies. From August 2019 to July 2022, Y Street members have collected over 10,000 opinion surveys from residents that show a strong majority of Virginians (90%) agree that parklands should be tobacco-free and vapor-free. Virginians (91%) also feel strongly that secondhand smoke is a dangerous hazard outdoors, and that tobacco and e-cigarette products cause damage to the environment (91%).

When asked why the campaign is important, Y Street member and local student, Haley Flores, from James River High School replied, “the Share The Air campaign is very important because of my family’s health issues. It is important to me that my sister and mother are able to go outside without worrying about having an asthmatic attack. I believe that through the Share The Air campaign change will be possible and really benefit the community.”

The campaign has received positive feedback from its partner localities that have gone 100% tobacco-free, including Chesterfield County, Hopewell, King George County, New Kent County, and Fauquier County. Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Director Gary Rzepecki noted after the locality agreed to go tobacco-free in January 2023, that “having tobacco-free spaces in Fauquier County Parks fits our mission of providing spaces for mental and physical health and wellness activities. Partnering with the Share The Air campaign promotes a healthier environment and strengthens our existing partnerships in Fauquier County and the state of Virginia.”

This week, the campaign has launched its 2nd annual Share The Air Takes Action where Y Street members are speaking to residents about the benefits of tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free parklands and rallying community members around this issue by asking individuals to submit messages of support for tobacco-free outdoor spaces. The campaign hopes that local parks and recreation departments will make changes to its park rules that include tobacco-free outdoor policies to provide an even greater outdoor experience for its residents.

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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.

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