Play tobacco-free in Manistee

Manistee City Council passes resolution supporting tobacco-free signage to be installed in 10 city parks.

Caption: A version of the new signs that will soon be found in 10 city parks

Caption: A version of the new signs that will soon be found in 10 city parks

Parks promote health, wellness and community engagement. Thanks to an effort lead by Patti Borucki of Great Start Manistee, several city parks will be even healthier places for children to play. New signs will be placed in parks with child play areas are aimed at reducing children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. I reached out to Patti to learn more about how this initiative got started.

Sarah: The Manistee City Council recently passed a resolution supporting tobacco-free signage in community child play areas. Can you briefly share where and how the process for tobacco-free signage originated?

Patti: The idea began literally at the grassroots level at a Great Start summer playgroup for families held at a local township park. This park had signage that requested patrons to refrain from smoking in child play areas. Through this sign, I was able to see that parents and other adults felt empowered to request other park patrons to smoke or use tobacco products away from the child play area.  Within the same month, I was approached by an active member of the community who also spearheaded the township park signage and she suggested tobacco free park signage might be the perfect initiative for the Great Start Collaborative to get behind on a community-wide scale. A guiding outcome of the Great Start Collaborative is to help ensure children are born healthy, thrive and are developmentally on track. This desired outcome, coupled with proactively addressing Manistee County’s significant rate of tobacco use and prenatal maternal smoking, spurred the idea of the tobacco free signage initiative as one effective avenue in producing a community wide impact. From there, using the model of the township park, I began making contacts within the city to see how we could accomplish the goal of tobacco free signage in all city parks with child play areas. It’s important to note that as this work was beginning, the Live Well Manistee County Coalition quickly endorsed and supported the process and played a key role.

Sarah: The inclusion of signage does not make tobacco use illegal - it remains voluntary, but individuals are encouraged to adhere. Can you share your plans with ensuring the community is made aware of the signs and why secondhand smoke is a concern?

Patti: The tobacco-free signage initiative has included the team work of a small workgroup supported through the Live Well Manistee County Coalition. We are very excited about the opportunity to share how the City of Manistee has embraced this initiative and is setting a healthy example for our community and its visitors. Currently, the workgroup is in the planning stages of how the community will be involved and made aware of the signs. Ideas include a press release, a community wide event at the point of installation and opportunities for area service groups to join in sharing the message of “Play Tobacco Free in Manistee.” All outreach related to these ideas will be connected to increasing awareness of the health risks of tobacco use, smoking and second hand smoke.

Sarah: Other communities across the country have tobacco-free signage to promote health and wellness. Did you identify one specific community to model this work in Manistee? Might there be plans in the future to include tobacco-free signage in child play areas outside of the city limits and/or other communities in our region?

Patti: As previously mentioned, a local township park, Stronach Park, was the catalyst and model for our city wide initiative. The workgroup hopes the City of Manistee’s example and approval will bring momentum to the initiative and other township parks across Manistee County will embrace the idea of using tobacco free signage as join in setting a healthy example and message within their communities as well.

Sarah: Where and how many parks within the City of Manistee will receive a sign?

Patti: With the collaboration of the City of Manistee Department of Public Works there will be a total of ten parks with child play areas that will install a “Play Tobacco-Free in Manistee” sign. Currently, the list includes: Rotary Park, 1st Street Beach Play Area, Rocket Park, Lighthouse Park, Fifth Avenue Beach Play Area, Reitz Park, Mack Park, Sands Park, Duffy Park, Morton Park

Sarah: Who were some of your biggest supporters in helping to make tobacco-free signage a reality?

Patti: This effort involved the support and collaboration of several organizations, the City of Manistee staff and Department of Public Works. The Live Well Manistee County Coalition workgroup and members as well as District Health Department (DHD) #10 immediately endorsed and supported the initiative through teamwork, graphic design, research and funding resources. The entire project including marketing dollars was provided by the Tencon Health Plan through DHD #10 and the Northwest Michigan Chronic Disease Coordinating Network. Letters of support were also written by our local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, the Early Childhood Collaboration, DHD #10 and the Manistee County Live Well Coalition. The City of Manistee staff and Department of Public Works were also an exemplary example of partnership in helping make the signage a reality. 

Sarah: What are 1-2 tips you can share with others on replicating this action in their community?

Patti: I would definitely encourage contacting their local health coalitions and District Health Department for support, data, guides, fact sheets, and other resources for those who want to learn more about the steps and benefits involved in creating tobacco-free outdoor recreational environments. There are several communities in the State of Michigan that have been successful with different models in promoting tobacco and smoke free community environments. With some research and a small dedicated workgroup, this can be a very effective way to have a sustainable impact and involve all ages in the health and well-being of your community.

The tobacco-free signage initiative was supported by Live Well Manistee, a coalition aimed at making Manistee County “the healthiest place to be.” Michigan State University Extension is proud to be a member of this group aimed at promoting and building a culture of health.  

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