POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Dressed in a purple T-shirt, Troy Livingstone felt what it’s like to use his voice and make change.
“It makes me feel good knowing that we’re standing up,” he said. “Everybody coming together as one to fight against big tobacco.”
Livingstone, a high school junior, is president of the Polk County chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT).
Earlier this year, he connected with Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey to propose a smoking and vaping ban in county parks.
The proposition came about after state law gave counties and municipalities the discretion to impose such a ban.
“Secondhand smoke anywhere you go smelling cigarette smoke, it’s not good. It damages your lungs, your skin, your teeth, everywhere. It’s not good all around,” said Livingstone. “We want to have a tobacco-free generation. We want to be the first one to do it.
He worked with other members of SWAT, county officials and Hailee Corbett, from Tobacco Free Polk.
“Children learn by what they see from others and if we’re allowing adults to smoke around them, vape around them, we’re teaching generations that that kind of behavior is acceptable,” said Cornett.
On Tuesday, Livingstone, as well as SWAT’s Polk County vice president, addressed commissioners during a public hearing on the matter.
“When communities introduce smoke-free policies, they reduce the exposure to secondhand smoke,” he said.
Minutes later, county commissioners voted unanimously to ban smoking and vaping at county-owned “active” parks, including youth sports complexes and playgrounds.
“It’s very encouraging whenever young people get involved, especially when it results in a positive action like this,” Commissioner George Lindsey said in a statement.
Advocates vow to keep pushing for change at all county parks and in cities.
“This is going to apply to active parks only. We would love for it to also in the future be applicable to inactive parks,” said Cornett.
Examples of “inactive” parks include reserves and parks with walking trails.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” said Matthew Garner, a smoker who lives in Polk County.
Garner said responsible smokers already clean up after themselves and do not smoke near children.
“Make sure you’re not upwind from them and be respectful but to actually put a law on it and say you can’t smoke, it’s a little bit, well, it’s unnecessary,” he said.
Another smoker said she always carries a bucket when at beaches or parks to throw out her cigarette butts.
“It is open air but you know, not everybody smokes anymore or you know, so I get it. I can see both sides of it,” said Linda Northrup.
Nonsmokers told News Channel 8 the smoking ban is a good decision.
“[Nonsmokers] can go and sit around now and enjoy the park and not have to be bothered with the smoke, the after-smoke. That’s nasty,” said Anna Graham.
The ordinance will go into effect once it is filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Signage will be installed at qualifying parks.
Violators will be reminded of the new ordinance and asked to leave the premises if they do not abide.