DOWNEY - A sign at the entrance of Furman Park clearly spells out Downey's prohibition of smoking in Downey's 12 public parks. Even so, Steven Duran says smoking is a common occurrence there."I see it all the time," the 16-year-old said. Although the outdoor smoking ordinance passed a year ago, there's an ongoing need to raise public awareness of the smoking prohibition as well as the cigarette litter problem, said Alexander Gaytan, advisor of the Kiwanis Green Team environmental club. On Aug. 15, youth representatives of the Kiwanis Green Team, Downey High KIWIN'S and Downey High Key Club joined forces with Councilmen Fernando Vasquez and Luis Marquez to host a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the unveiling of the first sign smoke-free parks sign. The celebration took place before the concerts at the park performance and included an educational booth about cigarette litter found at the 12 parks. Members of the Green Team celebrated by cutting a cake shaped like a no smoking sign and invited residents to join in and have a piece. Laura Garcia, a member of the Green Team, said many teens view smoking as "not that big of a deal. "But it is a big deal," she said. "It kills so many people. I want to educate people about the dangers of tobacco and maybe convince those who won't quit to not drop their cigarette litter at our parks." Another Green Team member, Margarita Hernandez of East Middle School, said she has a personal connection to the issue. "I've had relatives who have died from smoking. I felt I had to be a part of getting the word out." As a parent, Gloria Hernandez said she is grateful for the smoking prohibition in public parks and greater public awareness of the health risks of tobacco. "I wouldn't come here if I saw smoking. It's just not safe for her," said Hernandez, referring to her 7-year-old daughter, Gabriela. Vasquez and Marquez applauded the youth and said the Green Team, which is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Downey, played a major role in the passage of the smoking ban in parks. The youth group has now set its sights on the spreading awareness to all park goers that smoking is no longer allowed and encouraging smokers to drop their cigarette litter at the designated areas set for them. They plan to follow up by conducting monthly cigarette litter removals at all 12 parks.
********** Published: August 30, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 20