Banning smoking at parks

Dear Editor:Last week I attended a Downey City Council meeting to express my support for the passage of an ordinance for smoke-free parks and public events. As the mother of an asthmatic child, this issue hits close to home. My 6-year-old son has been suffering from asthma since he was 2. The thought of going to a park in Downey with my son frightens me because secondhand smoke exposure causes him bronchial spasms, forcing my family to leave the vicinity. According to the American Heart Assocation, secondhand smoke exposure can lead to an increased likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in Los Angeles County. My children, as all of us, have a right to breathe clean air. Other cities such as South Gate, Cerritos and Huntington Park have smoke-free park ordinances. Why should Downey families, like mine, be forced to travel outside our city to enjoy a day at the park? Smokers choose to smoke, my son did not choose to have asthma and outdoor tobacco smoke poses a serious health risk for him. I'm encouraged by the news that the Downey City Council has decided to explore a policy that creates smoke-free parks and public events, and I urge our council members to make sure it passes into law. -- Jessica Milla, Downey

Dear Editor: I've been smoking for several years and I had the opportunity to be at the City Council meeting where the initiative to ban smoking in parks was debated. Whether I agree or disagree with the measure, what I found really disrespectful was Mr. Mario Guerra's attitude in front of dozens of parents and their children. Mr. Guerra rudely interrupted a member from the "ban smoking" organization right in the middle of his presentation. He was challenging the individual's facts and began making corrections and asking questions without allowing him to finish his presentation with the excuse that he may forget his questions at the conclusion of the power point. I believe the real intention for interrupting the presentation was to make the speaker look bad by breaking his concentration and to make sure everyone in the room knew that the facts were "wrong", according to Mr. Guerra. During the presentation, everyone was quiet, listening with the proper respect, including Mr. Gafin, the other councilmember that opposed the measure, but Mr. Guerra did not care about the children's presence. He just wanted to get his point across. The second time - I think he intentionally did it - was when he started yelling at councilman Fernando Vasquez and pointing his finger at him and calling him a liar several times. It is not that he didn't care who was in the audience, but his goal was to make everyone who was supporting the measure look as liars. Mr. Guerra tried to manipulate and get the children's sympathy several times during the meeting. He agreed and admitted smoking was bad. He also revealed this is why he quit smoking many years ago, yet he had no intention of supporting the children's effort or was willing to vote in favor of it. Actually, he didn't have any strong points to support his opposition, but seconded Mr. Gafin who made more sense that night and argued about individuals rights. The only thing they both seemed to forget was the children's right to be in the park free of smoke. Even though I smoke, I was there supporting my son who takes part in the "Green Team" in Downey, a movement that has been helping to keep our city streets clean free of trash, graffiti, and cigarette butts in the parks. At the end of the night, I remember going home more upset for Mr. Guerra's lack of respect for the people and future voters than for the initiative, which I don't see violating my rights at all. And if it does, I would rather respect the children's rights than a habit that affect everyone include myself. -- Agustin Duran, Downey

********** Published: November 03, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 29