Former smoker Rachael Nelson thinks smokers should at least get out of the park if they opt to indulge themselves — for a couple of reasons.

“The kids really don’t have a choice” but to be exposed to secondhand smoke, Nelson said Friday as she pushed her 2-year-old birthday girl, Ellie, at Weigent Park in La Crosse. “So, if you could just step out of the park and get away from the kids, that would be awesome.”

The other concern is discarded cigarette butts, said Nelson, who had gone to Weigent with her husband, David Hollon, and their other child, 3-month-old Leon.

“My kid likes to pick stuff up off of the ground and eat it, so, catching her chewing on a butt really doesn’t make me very happy,” Nelson said, adding that smokers should put out the cigarettes and dispose of them in the trash instead of tossing them onto the ground.

Nelson’s view of smoking in parks aligns with respondents to a survey that the Seven Rivers Health Initiative took regarding smoking — a headcount that found 87 of the respondents favoring tobacco-free parks and 96 percent preferring tobacco-free playgrounds.

Judi Zabel, health educator and anti-smoking advocate


Nearly 80 percent supported tobacco-free campgrounds, a response that “was a surprise for us,” said Judi Zabel, an educator with the La Crosse County Health Department who also is a member of the La Crosse Area Health Initiative that administered the survey.

“We really built upon a statewide survey from 2013,” which found that the 73 percent of La Crosse County residents surveyed favored creating tobacco-free parks, beaches and fairgrounds.

That was slightly above the statewide average from the state’s 71 other counties, she said.

The new survey went a step further, including other public spaces such as baseball fields, golf courses, campgrounds, dog parks, fairgrounds, festival grounds and boat landings.

Support for smoking bans for fairgrounds, at 89 percent, and festival grounds, at 84 percent, were high, with festival grounds including not only Oktoberfest but also other community and church festivals, Zabel said.

The survey was conducted electronically and in person between February and August, resulting in the completion of more than 300 surveys at farmers markets, city parks, festivals and events such as Moon Tunes, from smokers and nonsmokers alike, Zabel said.

“We wanted to talk to individuals who use the parks, and we wanted to be sure to engage smokers,” she said.

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Many respondents expressed concern about the peril that has been demonstrated from secondhand smoke, while others criticized the environmental impact of litter from tobacco products.

Other survey participants complained of feeling nauseous when smelling cigarette smoke and finding it hard to quit smoking when people smoke around them.

Still others expressed alarm about their dogs eating cigarette butts.

Asked about the concern over dogs eating cigarette butts vs. acceptance of dogs’ social norm of sniffing each other’s butts to get acquainted, Zabel laughed and said, “I’m not even going to go there.”

People are becoming more accustomed to frequenting areas where smoking is banned, she said, adding, “Adults are enjoying that, and they expect it.”

Ever since Wisconsin banned smoking indoors in public buildings, restaurants and most bars on July 5, 2010, people have become increasingly aware that even a whiff of smoke can harm a baby, Zabel said.

Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, as well as schools and some businesses have smoke-free campuses.

Smoke-free parks are becoming more common in the Badger State, with cities and counties adopting such ordinances including Appleton, Brown County, Columbia County, Greenfield, Shorewood, St. Croix County, Verona and Wisconsin Dells.

Oklahoma prohibits tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, on all state lands and parks, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico prohibits smoking in all parks.

On a related topic, people young and old are becoming increasingly confused about electronic cigarettes, vaping and juuling, Zabel said.

Vaping is used more for games, such as blowing doughnut holes, much like people did with cigarette smoke in days of yore, she said, while juuling usually involves getting high.

About 85 percent of teenagers don’t believe nicotine is present in vaping products, but it often is, Zabel said, adding that e-cigarette liquids have 10 cancer-causing substances, she said.

“Kids pay attention, but they don’t realize that,” she said.

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(15) comments


As a smoker I have to disagree with this idea!!! If you have kids, its your responsibility to watch them all the time, its not our fault your kid picks things up and put them in his/her mouth. I do pick up my butts and others if I see them.. I also agree with Bichon if your going to make it no smoking in parks and campground, then also make them alcohol free. Kids shouldn't have to deal with drunk parents!!!


Zabel, you have no clue what you're talking about, and don't even quote sources of your wisdom.
When you say "Vaping is used more for games" ... it shows your lack of investigating your hunches. You should not be getting paid by the taxpayers, then take personal uneducated slanted stances.
How about we make illegal and outlaw chocolate! Would you fight that?
Eventually they will come for your vice.
From looks, you have much experience, and may be addicted to chocolate.
You do you, take care now.


How did vaping come into an article about SMOKING?!?

"On a related topic, people young and old are becoming increasingly confused about electronic cigarettes, vaping and juuling, Zabel said." (so not related, has nothing to do with smoke)

Gee, if you're confused, it's too bad there aren't stores around you can go in and ask questions. Shelby mall, Copeland, Rose St.

Forget the kids, vaping is saving countless ADULT lives. If you have kids, parent them, not up to retailers to do that for you. Juul does not offer THC pods, only nicotine ... if the directions are not followed by a user, you could get a headrush. How many other products could I say that about you can buy by the cart full at Ace Hardware?!?


LOL always with the "well, look, they're doing it, and we're not up to date with the Jones.

"Smoke-free parks are becoming more common in the Badger State, with cities and counties adopting such ordinances including Appleton, Brown County, Columbia County, Greenfield, Shorewood, St. Croix County, Verona and Wisconsin Dells."

pathetic ... not even an argument, just affirmation they're not crazy and drunk with power I guess...?


Since I quit smoking, the only thing that offends myself, my family and my friends ... are those people that use body sprays in excess. Makes my eyes water, I sneeze and feel nauseous .... there's a public conditions ban I'd be on board with even if it infringes on someones rights in a free land. After that is tackled, we can move on to cheap cologne.


NOTE; they do not say WHO took the survey. When a survey comes back with an issue at 96%, it's easy to see it was not a balanced polling pool.


"My kid likes to pick stuff up off of the ground and eat it" ... omg, supervise your kids! Can we mandate who can have kids, seems that needs to be a permit or licensing issue ... and the city can make money from it!
If you're offended by WHAT IS ON the ground FOR YOUR KID to eat, you may not be a good parent.


RIGHT off the bat in the article; "the kids". THE KIDS don't seem to matter in Pettibone, the poor little precious babies will get struck with flying plastic discs ... oh, and there's no swings, play areas or anything there of attraction.
The kids, pfffft, wear a condom.


If your going to banned smoking in campgrounds, you had better ban campfires as well. People throw plastic in them and the smoke is way worse for folks than cigarette smoke is. Also you better ban drinking alcohol in the parks too, because that isn't good for kids to see either. As a smoker, I do pick up my butts is there is no ashtray around. Camping I throw them in the fire..its better than throwing plastic forks,,,ect in there.


This is stupid. Just watch attendance drop. The smoking Gestapo need to wise up.


People really think it's about air quality ... that's why they passed an ordinance about indoor air. Well, now, it can't be about air quality outdoors ... the common theme is "who can we chastise in todays world" ... and those pesky smokers, using a legal product seem to always be the target. They pass this ... protest and start dumping your ash trays in the parks. Civil disobedience to prove a point, teach them a lesson.

I quit 6 years ago, but I'll still fight against stupidity any day of the week for any reason, and this is stupid.


why? i smoke and i pick up other peoples garbage. i dare you to say something to me about smoking outdoors. who are you gonna call? the cigarette police?


the city will adopt it, watch. Know why? MORE WRITTEN TICKETS


...and yet, my new neighbors party late at night right outside my bedroom window, smoking drinking, playing music and talking way too loud after 10:00 pm - disrespectful - no consideration - I can't open my windows since they sit on the huge front porch till all hours of the night - I have asthma and this cigarette smoke is a killer for me and anyone with asthma. PLEASE STOP THIS.


since you have special conditions, you need to take care of that, nobody is to blame. You chose where you live as well, and can move. Stop blaming others, it's a free society.

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