About 20 children from the Kiwanis Green Team met at the Downey City Library on Wednesday to discuss strategies and talk about the sheer amount of cigarette butts they collected at the city’s parks during a recent cleanup campaign.
Independence Park alone had 1,300 butts
Many of the children want the City Council to outlaw smoking at parks.
“Not only is it filthy, but it can kill a kid,” said Daniel Gonzalez, a 12-year-old who attends East Middle School.
Their last effort to bring the issue up at the City Council didn’t go over so well.
Councilman Fernando Vasquez earlier this year proposed that the city’ s staff look into laws that would clamp down on public smoking, especially in city parks.
But Vasquez wasn’t able to make the Aug. 10 City Council meeting when the issue was to be discussed, so councilmen Luis Marquez and Roger Brossmer asked to put the discussion off until Vasquez was able to attend.
The city shouldn’t spend time crafting laws for something that is already regulated by the state, he argued.
But several Southern California cities have taken hard stances against tobacco use. Calabasas, Baldwin Park, Glendale and South Pasadena have all voted in strict laws to curb public smoking, such as prohibiting smoking in parks or making it illegal to light up in a shared apartment building.
Downey has taken few measures to curb public smoking, according to a 2010 report from the American Lung Association, which graded each city’s smoking regulations.
The Green Team’s director, Alex Gaytan, said the issue won’t be brought up again until the students seem like they really want to do something about it.
“I’m ready when they’re ready,” he said “But I’ve been saying that it’s got to come from them. And honestly, if you go to a park and see all these cigarette butts, it’s disgusting. I don’t care if people don’t like me or its not politically correct. I’m really with the kids all the way.”
A recent Gallup poll found that 59 percent of people in the United States were against smoking in public places.
Groups supporting civil liberties, however, have pushed hard against controls against tobacco use, saying such laws allow government too much intrustion into private lives.
And several columnists, including slate.com’s William Saletan, have pointed out that smoking outdoors probably doesn’t cause much harm to others unless the person is standing within a few feet of the smoker.
Vasquez, who attended Wednesday’s Green Team meeting, isn’t dropping the issue, and he is considering bringing it up again for a meeting in October, he said.