Shikellamy State Park Marina

A couple walks through the Shikellamy State Park around sunset in this file photo.

Pennsylvania Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced on Friday a ban on all forms of tobacco, vaping, and e-cigarettes at playgrounds in all state parks.

Nick Sherlock, the park manager at Shikellamy State Park and Milton State Park, said the new policy will be followed at the two Valley parks. The state park playground ban eliminates children’s exposure to secondhand smoke at 135 locations in the state’s 121 parks. Notification signs will be installed by Memorial Day, May 25.

"I can't say I've seen it myself," Sherlock said. "We were told this is going to be the new policy going forward. A couple of years ago, they did the same thing for beaches at state parks."

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, said she was surprised this wasn't already established policy.

"I haven't heard any pushback," said Culver. "I think smokers and non-smokers have already adjusted to not smoking in public places."

As part of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s “Young Lungs at Play” program, all forms of tobacco, vaping and e-cigarettes no longer will be permitted within 30 feet of state park playground facilities.

“Directly in line with our parks’ mission of promoting healthy lifestyles, their playgrounds join the growing number of county, borough and township park facilities that embrace the ‘Young Lungs at Play’ program and now forbid tobacco use,” Dunn said in a media release. “Our children should be guaranteed the right to play in clean air and healthy areas that are free of secondhand smoke.”

Levine said in the media release the program is another collaborative effort by the Wolf Administration to protect the health of Pennsylvanians.

“We are proud to work with DCNR on this effort to reduce the exposure to secondhand smoke for children," Levine said. "The department is committed to promoting healthy behaviors, and that starts with our children and protecting them from potentially harmful exposures, such as secondhand smoke.”

The United States Surgeon General estimates secondhand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults, and 400 deaths in infants each year. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for respiratory infections, middle ear disease, severe asthma and slowed lung growth.

In a related move, responding to visitor requests and support, DCNR in prior years has implemented smoking controls at 44 of its 54 swimming beaches at state parks throughout the state. Smoking is not permitted at state park pools.

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

Since June 2010, more than of 579 municipalities, including five counties, have joined Young Lungs at Play in Pennsylvania. These locations include parks, athletic fields, playgrounds, trails and even city streets and sidewalks to help protect children and the environment. In addition, 99 school districts and 453 organizations have joined Young Lungs at Play and created tobacco-free spaces.

In 2019, the Department of Health’s Tobacco and Cancer Programs partnered with DCNR to roll-out a cancer-prevention sunscreen initiative at Pennsylvania state parks. The Young Lungs at Play program complements the Sunscreen in the State Park Initiative the Division of Cancer Control and Prevention started with DCNR in 2017.

Both the Sunscreen initiative and Young Lungs at Play program support the Pennsylvania Cancer Control Plan by preventing lung and skin cancers. In 2016, over 10,000 Pennsylvanians were diagnosed with lung cancer and over 3,600 Pennsylvanians were diagnosed with skin cancer.

Recommended for you