Staying smoke free WNY passes ordinance to prohibit smoking in playgrounds

The West New York Board of Commissioners introduced an ordinance at their May 15 meeting that would prohibit smoking in the town’s playground areas.

This ordinance was introduced after a group of local teens lobbied the board at their April meeting for something similar.

These teenagers, members of Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies (REBEL), a statewide teen group against tobacco companies, also were responsible for making Miller Stadium in West New York smoke-free.

“We are taking your advice,” said Commissioner of Parks and Public Property Gerry Lange to the group of REBEL members attending the meeting. “We are very proud to be able to do this.”

That ordinance will be up for final hearing and adoption at the board’s June 19 meeting.

Sending the right message

Andy Ruiz, a student at Public School No. 5, wanted to make the playgrounds smoke-free so that his little brother would have somewhere to play.

“Now my brother will be able to go to the park without having to go back upstairs,” said Ruiz, whose younger brother has problems breathing and can not play when people are smoking around him.

REBEL has already reached out to the Board of Commissioners in Union City and the City Council in Hoboken to try to pass similar ordinances in their municipalities.

“Our goal is to get all of Hudson County to pass ordinances like this,” said Elizabeth Morales, REBEL’s Hudson County youth coordinator.

“Something should have been done a long time ago,” said Omar Martinez, a student at Memorial High School. “When kids see people smoking, they think that smoking is a good thing.”

“A lot of young people are in the playgrounds,” said Lange. “This ordinance will send the right message. We want to discourage smoking, not encourage it.”

How it all began

When REBEL began in West New York in November 2000, there were only five members. Since then, the West New York chapter has expanded to include students from Union City. Other Hudson County towns that have REBEL chapters are North Bergen, Kearny, Bayonne and Harrison.

According to Morales, Hudson County now has more than 400 REBEL members and there are more than 1,000 members statewide.

REBEL, which sends the message that teens do not want to be targeted in tobacco companies’ advertising campaigns, began in November 2000 with a Kick-Ash weekend sponsored by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. The REBEL chapters are sponsored locally by each county’s Communities Against Tobacco Chapter.


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