DeWitt has become the first municipality in Onondaga County to install a totally tobacco-free parks policy, joining the county's growing "Young Lungs at Play" initiative geared toward creating smoke-free playgrounds and beaches throughout Onondaga. The announcement was made during the 39th annual Canal Day at Ryder Park, outside the DeWitt Town Hall.
"There will be no smoking in our recreational parklands," said Dr. Vince Sportelli, chairman of the parks and recreation commission. "The kids deserve good, clean lungs and with our "Young Lungs at Play" -- it fits right in."
The initiative is a joint effort between the county's park and health departments, with Tobacco-Free Onondaga County -- a coalition of local organizations and individuals funded by the New York State Department of Health -- striving to create a healthy and tobacco-free community.
Sportelli said the commission would like the town to be seen as the forerunner of this campaign, and hopes to see the plan picked up by other municipalities throughout the county.
"The statistics show there's more and more prevalence of asthma and allergies and upper respiratory conditions with children," Sportelli said. "We want to eliminate any contaminants in the air and this natural way of doing it with a no smoking policy in the town of DeWitt and in all our parklands is the way to start."
Town Councilor Irene Scruton first led the project to the Parks and Recreation Commission after hearing about it from the Onondaga County Health Department. She said all seven members were advocates from the get go.
"We got the ball rolling and we're the first town to do it," Scruton said. "We're very excited."
Scruton also said the reaction from parents and families have been nothing but positive.
Lisa Penn, a DeWitt native who now lives in California backs the program 100 percent.