More and more towns across our area are banning the use of tobacco products in public areas. Now, one Green Country town is almost entirely tobacco-free.
Guthrie Green is a privately owned park that allows public use, but it doesn't allow smoking or tobacco. 36 miles south of the park, the town of Porter now list their parks as places that are tobacco-free after a group of students made it their mission.
The "Peach Capital Oklahoma" is tobacco free, at least in public areas. The small town of Porter has just over 550 residents and 30 of them, all students, worked to get tobacco products banned in public places in the community.
“It's crazy to think how our community is tobacco-free now 24/7,” said Caleb Eutsler with Students Working Against Tobacco.
The students worked to pass three tobacco control laws in the town. Students had already worked to get the school district tobacco-free, then, they focused their efforts just across the street on the parks.
Eutsler said his group, SWAT, lobbied the city council to prevent people from smoking and using chewing tobacco in Lions Park.
“It was a lot of work coming to this point, but it was kind of a relief knowing that our community can be safe with tobacco," he said.
Larger cities are still working on laws to ban tobacco products in parks. Cities like Tulsa and Broken Arrow only outlaw tobacco use at ball fields and public use areas, like pools.
The Wagoner County Health Department's Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, Johnna Sue Blair, and Porter's Mayor, Richard Keck, hope other communities may look to Porter as an example.
"I hope they'll look at the success we've had in Porter and want to be a part of that," Blair said.
Keck said, "We took the bull by the horns so to speak and we made a decision, it's up to the rest of the towns and cities to make that same decision."
SWAT team members said they will continue to keep the park clean and rid of any cigarette butts.
"It’s just really a relief on my mind, and my being, knowing these kids aren't going to see that now, and if they do they'll know it's not right," Eutsler said.
Health officials in Wagoner County said SWAT groups in three other county school districts are working to get their communities entirely tobacco-free.