Making a Difference | "Young Lungs at Play"

A program to help keep children safe from second-hand cigarette smoke while they're playing is gaining momentum in one Central Pa. county.

“Young Lungs at Play” started as a way for playgrounds to be smoke free and Lebanon Family Health services jumped at the chance to partner with local playgrounds.

Take a look at how the partnership was making a difference when I caught up with them two years ago.

According to the American Lung Association, second-hand tobacco smoke causes 36,000 deaths a year in the United States.

Because of that, Lebanon Family Health Services have adopted a program that designates playgrounds and other recreational facilities "smoke free."

It's their program and "Young Lungs at Play" that are making a difference in the youngest of lungs.

While at the Hilltop Playground in Lebanon earlier in early May, little Luciano and his great grandfather were have a good time.

Hilltop is one of 16 recreation sites that have joined the Young Lungs at Play project in a partnership with Lebanon Family Health Services, the American Lung Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Private or public property owners and groups need to agree to be smoke free locations, like a playground, athletic field, walking trail or other recreational facility, and sign a policy, and they will get free signs to let those know that young lungs are at play and smoking is prohibited.

"It reminds them, it's just a nonchalant way of saying, you know, let the kids breathe clean air while they're out here," said Don Stoudt, of the Hilltop Playground Association.

Stoudt says they signs are working.

The Young Lungs at Play initiative not only protects kids from second-hand smoke, but other dangers associated with cigarettes.

"In the past we've actually had several fires where people flicked their cigarette butts into the mulch and mulch takes off really quick, so we did have a couple mulch fires indirectly from cigarette smokers," Stoudt said.

He, his wife, and about six other association members maintain the playground.

"Cigarette butts are the number one most disposed litter item in the United States and it poses a threat to children and animals who pick up the cigarette butts and can choke on them, open them and be exposed to the nicotine inside," Holly Dolan, of Lebanon Family Health Services, said.

For anyone who questions the need for an outdoor facility to be smoke-free, those involved in the project would like them to remember the other health hazards and the threat to kids like Luciano.

"It really is educating folks that there is no safe level of exposure and when kids come to a playground they're coming to a place to be healthy and to recreate and to breathe well and that's really the whole idea of the program," Dolan said.

The Young Lungs at Play initiative is funded through the PA Department of Health and the American Lung Association.

Fast forward two years and Holly Dolan with Lebanon Family Health informed me that although "Young Lungs at Play" started out as a project for private playgrounds, it has now expanded to include entire municipalities in lebanon county, which can designate any outdoor play area smoke free.

And since that expansion, holly says more than 40-percent of eligible municipalities in Lebanon County are now part of young lungs at play.

In fact, they're welcoming a new member tomorrow morning.

North Cornwall Townships's Gloninger Park will have a special ceremony tomorrow morning at 11:15 a.m.

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