CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — No more lighting up in Chesterfield County parks — a group of teens lit the way to snuff out smoking there this month.
Haley Flores is just 16 years old, but she’s already sparking change in her community by encouraging people to switch the lighters — or vape pens — off. Through the group Y-Street, the James River High School student met with leaders at the county’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission meeting earlier this month to talk about banning tobacco use in all public parks.
“They are reducing litter and making helping the parks and environments look cleaner,” Flores said.
Reducing the use of tobacco products is a cause close to Flores’ heart.
“When me and my sister were younger, we’d play outside and then we had to go back inside, because she smelled smoke and she like got triggered.” Flores said. “Her asthmatic attacks got really triggered.”
Just last week, 8News spoke with county officials about the recent rise in vape pens being confiscated at high schools.
According to the CDC, in 2022, 1 in 10 teens admitted to having used e-cigarettes. Flores has witnessed this rise in teen vaping. It’s part of why she’s passionate about the “Sharing the Air” campaign.
“[Students] start getting peer pressured or they just see these ads on the paper,” Flores started. “They just think, ‘oh, well, if everybody else is doing it, I should, too. It’s not that harmful to me.’ They don’t realize that yes, it is. And it just hurts me to see that they are so addicted.”
Flores and her Y-Street team said fanning the flames of change often starts in public parks. Now that the county signed the “Share the Air” initiative, the signs are going up and no one, regardless of age, can use tobacco products on site. The group hopes it will discourage public smoking, minimize litter and help keep the parks fresher and more beautiful.
“Knowing that I can make, like, a little bit of change is like, really rewarding,” Flores said.
The new rules prohibit smoking within 50 feet of any Chesterfield County park, sporting, or spectator event. Y-Street leaders told 8News that other counties like Hanover and New Kent are signing on to “share the air” as well.