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Henrico County, VA. – Henrico County’s parks and outdoor recreational areas are officially tobacco-free. Henrico Recreation & Parks recently decided to commit to making its parklands and park facilities 100% tobacco-free and vapor-free to provide a clean, healthy, and safe environment for all to enjoy.

The policy change was initiated by Y Street, Virginia’s largest youth-led movement and a program of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY). VFHY and Y Street members strive to ensure 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 park and recreation departments and government officials to adopt comprehensive tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free outdoor policies.

On October 4, 2023, Y Street members from JR Tucker High School and Highland Springs High School met with Henrico’s Recreation & Parks Commission to present how the county can enhance its parks and outdoor recreational areas and provide an even greater outdoor experience by going 100% tobacco-free. When asked why the campaign is important, Y Street member Nainika Sompallie replied, “I support Share The Air because my brother has had asthma his entire life, and when we’re in outdoor spaces, and someone is smoking or vaping, it causes his asthma to act up. Because of this, we can’t be in public spaces where someone is smoking due to the impact that secondhand smoke has on him. I believe everyone deserves to enjoy Virginia’s beauty, and by adopting a tobacco-free, e-cigarette-free policy, all Virginians, including those with respiratory conditions, can do exactly that.” Henrico County strives to create dedicated spaces that allow residents to be active, relax, and gather outdoors. For this reason, the Henrico Recreation and Parks Assistant Director signed a commitment form to adopt a voluntary tobacco-free outdoor policy and partner with Share The Air.

The impact of the new policy is expected to reduce tobacco and vape litter and residents’ exposure to secondhand smoke, and promote positive role modeling for youth who visit the county’s parks and outdoor recreational areas. Henrico Recreation & Parks joins the growing list of localities with tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free outdoor policies, becoming Share The Air’s 17th partner. According to Assistant Director Matt Reynal, “Whether you’re relaxing near a pond watching the ducks or playing on one of our athletic fields, we want our parks to enhance the physical and mental health of our residents and visitors. Our partnership with Share The Air reinforces this commitment to providing a healthy environment for all park users by encouraging patrons to avoid smoking and vaping in our parks.”

Henrico Recreation & Parks will receive free tobacco-free signage as part of its partnership with Share The Air to post as a reminder to park visitors.

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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, daycares, 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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