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Featured Story: TOWN OF OLD ORCHARD BEACH ADOPTS TOBACCO-FREE BEACH POLICY: Old Orchard Youth Action Group Prompts Policy Change in Their Town
Press Release submitted by Toby Simon, Advisor OOB Youth Tobacco Action Group
On November 15, 2011 the Old Orchard Beach Town Council adopted a policy that makes all municipal beaches in the town 100% tobacco-free. Councilors voted unanimously to pass a Tobacco-Free Beach Resolution. Signs will soon be erected throughout the town to alert beachgoers to the new policy. Old Orchard Beach now joins several other southern Maine coastal communities that have recently adopted tobacco-free beach policies, including South Portland, Biddeford, Scarborough, Portland, York and Ogunquit.
The effort to make the beach in Old Orchard tobacco-free was led by a group of four 10th grade students who are all residents of the town. The four students, Hattie Simon, MaryKate Slattery, Sarah Jenkins and Sabryna Deschaies first began their efforts as 8th graders in 2009 at the Annual Anti-Tobacco Youth Summit sponsored by the Maine Youth Action Network. The four girls created an award-winning action plan at the Summit which focused on the problem of tobacco litter on the beach; the harmful impact of tobacco products on marine and wildlife; the negative health impact of secondhand smoke to beachgoers; and how eliminating tobacco products from the beach creates a more family-friendly environment for visitors to OOB. The girls have spoken before the Town Council on numerous occasions over the past year, and presented two town council workshops to educate Councilors and citizens on their initiative.
The OOB Youth Tobacco Action Group was guided by their adult advisor, Toby Simon, a tobacco educator and policy specialist. The students researched and presented on the negative effects of tobacco litter on the environment, which is not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for up to 15 years. They also presented information on the multiple health risks that outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco litter can cause to humans and wildlife. They highlighted extensive public health research on the dangers of outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as data from the U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control on the many health problems and diseases caused by tobacco products and secondhand smoke exposure.
"This is such a positive step for our town,” said Hattie Simon, spokesperson for the OOB Youth Tobacco Action Group. "The Town Council is choosing to be a great role model for the youth in our community. This policy says that OOB cares about the health of our residents, our visitors and our environment. We are so lucky to have seven miles of beautiful beach here, and we need to protect it. Our beaches have gotten to be a mess with so much tobacco litter everywhere, and I think this policy is going to make our town much more appealing to visitors.”
Signage for the new policy is being provided at no cost to the Town of Old Orchard Beach by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition, the local Healthy Maine Partnership. The OOB Youth Tobacco Action Group will also be donating all their action plan award money ($378) to the town of Old Orchard to assist with the cost of signage and community education on the Tobacco-free Beach policy.
You may also view this story online at WCSH-6.
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