HONESDALE – Wayne Highlands School District has joined "Young Lungs at Play," a program aimed to make public parks and playgrounds tobacco free.

The program is supported by the Tobacco Free Northeast Coalition.

A kick-off event was held Wednesday at the playground at Lakeside School attended by district, state and local officials, as well as teens against tobacco use.

District Superintendent Gregory Frigoletto said the program is an important health initiative for the district and community.

The superintendent said tobacco-free initiatives are not new to the district, as it has wellness programs and a Teens Against Tobacco Use program.

Frigoletto said the "Young Lungs at Play" program is a "very easy and nice fit for us" and the district is "thrilled to be a part of the initiative."

Tobacco Free Northeast has invited all Wayne County municipalities, school districts and youth organizations to join in eliminating children’s exposure to secondhand smoke at local parks, playgrounds and playing fields.

"The school district is setting a good example for the county," said Tomas J. Aguilar, director of the
Bureau of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction at the
Pennsylvania Department of Health.

"Young Lungs at Play" is a no-cost, tobacco-free program that has proven successful across Pennsylvania and in other states, according a news release. It aims to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke at parks and playgrounds by educating municipalities, school districts and youth organizations.

"This program will help protect the environment and the health of all Wayne Highlands playground visitors," said the release from Tobacco Free Northeast Coalition.

Merry Casey, treatment and coalition coordinator for the Tobacco Free Northeast Coalition, said having the tobacco-free playground was a "great decision" by the district."

Tobacco Free Northeast provides weather resistant "Young Lungs at Play" signs to be posted in the tobacco-free zones.

The program is funded through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Taking part in afternoon event at Lakeside were Frigoletto; Aguilar; Casey; district Assistant Superintendent Timothy Morgan; Sue McLain, state Department of Health public health program administrator; Tony Delonti, program specialist for the American Lung Association; and Donna Decker of Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Also participating were Emily Cox and Lyle Galloway, incoming sophomores at Honesdale High School and members of Teens Against Tobacco Use.

An estimated 50,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer and heart disease attributable to secondhand smoke exposure, according to the coalition.

Secondhand smoke exposure also causes an estimated one million illnesses in children each year.