Some area municipalities already enforce it. Others are thinking about it, and then there are those who do nothing.

What we're talking about is protecting children - specifically protecting their lungs when they're out playing in playgrounds or recreational fields.

Second hand smoke is a proven killer. It can lead to respiratory ailments in young lungs, conditions that eventually could lead to something worse, like cancer.

But there's a new prograrm out that is aimed at municipalities fighting second hand smoke.

And, as a result of this program, visiting your local playground or recreational field may soon be a more enjoyable experience without the sight of cigarette butts littering the ground or the smell of tobacco smoke in the air.

"Young Lungs at Play" is a public health initiative to eliminate children's exposure to secondhand smoke at local public parks, playgrounds and playing fields. Penn State Cooperative Extension will work with municipalities and county government to coordinate the no-cost tobacco-free parks and playgrounds initiative, which has been successful in other parts of the country.

The initiative assists municipalities, in passing local laws, ordinances, policies or resolutions that designate parks, playgrounds and recreation fields tobacco-free. The municipalities are also provided with weather resistant "Young Lungs at Play" signs that can be posted in those public areas.

"This is an important health initiative for our community." said Kathy Lombardo , program coordinator, "Exposure to secondhand smoke is estimated to cause at least 38,000 deaths each year in the United States and over one million illnesses in children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies tobacco smoke as a Class A carcinogen and the Surgeon General reports that there is no safe level of exposure. Children are at particular risk for asthma, respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease when exposed to tobacco smoke. Outdoor tobacco use has an environmental impact as well. Cigarettes butts are one of the most littered items in the world. It is costly to clean up and tobacco waste has the potential to poison our waterways, animals and people."

We hope local governments will take advantage of this program, and, if they haven't already banned smoking in these public places, will take the initiative to do so.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com