News and Events

Dixie County SWAT Chapter Conducts a Park Clean-UP at Waddle Wheeler Park in Cross City
December 17, 2022

On Saturday, December 17, 2022, at 10:00 a.m., the Tobacco Free Partnership of Dixie County, the Dixie County High School SWAT Club and the Ruth Rains Middle School SWAT club conducted a city park clean-up at Wandle Wheeler Park in Cross City, Florida.  Wheeler Park is located right behind the County Courthouse, the Sheriff’s Office, and the County Commissioners Office.  Over 20 participated and planned the event.  Members of the Town of Cross City Council and the Sheriffs Office were invited to join the fun and to observe the need for a tobacco free parks policy by SWAT youth. 

In June 2022, Governor DeSantis signed HB105, the legislation that grants city and county governments the ability to ban smoking at public parks and beaches. This new law could potentially impact Florida’s 67 county park systems and more than 400 city park systems.  In the past years, all a county or city could do was pass a Resolution and post signage. Now that the Florida Clean Air Act has been passed, Dixie County and the Town of Cross City can take a major beneficial step to protect their communities by passing an ordinance to make beaches and parks tobacco, smoke and vape free. 

  The Town of Cross City manages Wandle Wheeler Park, which has signage at all entrances that state the park rules that include no tobacco.  During the park clean-up, one adult was seen smoking from a picnic area.  The youth shared with other park attendees that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. There are thousands of deaths each year associated with secondhand smoke. Children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, physical and cognitive development abnormalities, and cancer. There were several families that visited the park to play at the playground, eat at one of the picnic areas and to play basketball at the ball court.     
The partnership and SWAT youth gathered any garbage and waste that was left by park visitors.  Florida communities spend thousands of dollars each week collecting cigarette waste from public spaces.  Cigarette butts are harmful in ingested by children, pets or wildlife.  During the park clean-up, a gallon sized Ziplock bag was filled with the gathered tobacco and vape litter.  The youth noted that most of the cigarette butts were found near the playground area.  Reducing cigarette waste is an important public health step because cigarettes are not biodegradable, and the plastics and toxic chemicals in cigarettes can be harmful if they enter the water supply.      

During the park clean-up, a vaping device was found discarded on the ground, it was very colorful and could have been used with nicotine or any other chemical.  E-Cigarettes produce an aerosol that contains at least ten chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.  In 2018, American poison control centers logged nearly 13,000 cases involving exposure to cigarettes, cigarette butts, vapor-generating devices, or other tobacco products with more than 79% occurred in children aged 5 years and younger. 

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Dixie County and the SWAT youth of Dixie County look forward to sharing the information gathered during this event and to share it with county and town decision makers with hopes of adoption of smoke and vape free parks and beaches ordinances. 


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