Students Nayeli Morales and Tony Davis from the Student Health Council at Independence High School are on a mission to see that all parks in Blackfoot become smoke-free for the better health of everyone, especially children. The students, along with Traci Lambson, MHE from Southeastern Idaho Public Health (SIPH), presented a proposal to the Blackfoot City Council on Tuesday night in hopes that the city will consider making smoke-free parks a reality in the near future.
The students stressed to the council that second hand smoke is particularly dangerous to children and can agitate allergies and asthma and cause them to have higher incidents of colds, bronchitis, ear infections, pneumonia and other lung infections..
Morales said she has witnessed children in parks playing with dirty cigarette butts and putting them in their mouths.
"I have seen kids eating butts. You don't know what kind of germs or infections the people smoking them had...or if a dog peed on them...or what," she stressed. "I love kids. Seeing the babies in the park really made me realize, we have to do this. We need to care for one another."
Lambson of SIPH, who noted that 88 percent of Idahoans are smoke-free, told the council that if Blackfoot were to adopt a smoke-free ordinance for the city's parks, that the public health department would provide park signage, assist in policy development and promote an education campaign.
Morales, a senior, said it is surprising to some to see that she and Tony [Davis] feel so passionately about making the local parks smoke free.
"Some people think that the students here at Independence are a bunch of juvenile delinquents. They don't take the time to see why we are here and what we hope to accomplish. Not everyone here is a bad kid. You can't judge a book by its cover," she said. "There are students here who care about their community and who care about others. If you want something to happen you need to be the first one to step up and make it happen."
Davis, a Junior, agreed, saying, "I have goals and dreams. I hope to become an oncologist someday. This is a big deal to me. I will keep working to improve the health of others while I'm in school and when I get out of high school."
Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue was appreciative of the students' presentation, saying, "The council is sensitive to this issue. The problem is implementation and enforcement. We don't want to make an ordinance that can't be enforced."
Virtue recommended that the students continue to work on this issue with councilman Rich Woodfin, who is over the city parks,
Morales said that they won't be discouraged if the city rejects their proposal.
"If they [the city council] tells us no, that's O.K,. We won't stop. We're going to keep trying," she said.