I am Veenu King, a member of Community Advocate Teens of Today (CATT) youth tobacco coalition and Chairman of the City of Milpitas Youth Advisory Commission. I am writing to urge the Milpitas City Council to pass smoke-free parks and recreation areas, smoke-free outdoor dining, and tobacco retail licensing ordinances in my city.
From November 2011 until March 2012, CATT members conducted park cleanups in San Jose, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale. Surprisingly, cities with smoke-free park policies had significantly fewer cigarette butts than those found in non smoke-free parks.
San Jose, a city that prohibits residents from smoking in parks, had a total of 520 butts in two of its parks. On the other hand, 2,500 butts were found in two Sunnyvale parks and 3,000 butts were discovered in two Milpitas parks; both cities do not have a smoke-free park policy.
Our findings illustrate that smoke-free policies have been effective in deterring youth and adults from smoking in the recreational areas while creating a healthier environment for others. In December, I, along with two individuals, presented the Milpitas Parks findings to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Though the commission voted to endorse smoke-free parks, there has been no progress since.
We, CATT, have brought our coalition to testify at the Transportation and Land Use Subcommittee meeting three times. I’m sorry to report that not much has happened then to advance this policy, which will benefit our community. We hope that a draft ordinance will be brought forward at the meeting on March 27th Transportation and Land Use Subcommittee meeting and that the city council will make health and tobacco prevention a priority for my city of Milpitas.
-Veenu King, Milpitas resident and CATT & Youth Advisory Commission member