The purpose of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Position Statement on Tobacco Consumption in Parks is to encourage all providers of park, recreation and leisure service to maintain healthy, safe and clean environments that are free of tobacco consumption and use, tobacco products, and negative behaviors that may worsen public health. NRPA expressly supports a prohibition on the consumption and use of tobacco products at all park and recreation facilities in order to protect the health of our workforce, visitors and the environment.


Park and recreation agencies are critical stewards of public health — preserving and promoting access to millions of acres of parkland that bring together people of all genders, faiths, ethnicities and abilities to pursue physical activity, healthy lifestyles and leisure experiences. Currently, over 1,266 park and recreation agencies across the country have deemed their facilities tobacco-free. Prohibiting tobacco consumption and use at park and recreation facilities will shield visitors, especially children who are easily influenced by adults, from unhealthy behavior and dangerous exposure to secondhand smoke. Additionally, this prohibition will prevent millions of cigarette butts and filters, most of which never decompose and can harm plants, grass and animals, leech into streams, or cause fires at park and recreation facilities, from being left behind by tobacco users.

Each day, tobacco consumption and use steals time, health, money, energy and life away from 42 million American adults and 3 million middle and high school students. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and exposes users to immediate and long-term damage. Tobacco kills over 480,000 Americans every year. Secondhand smoke also causes unknown harm to millions of individuals who may be unwittingly exposed. Secondhand smoke has caused 2.5 million deaths since 1964.

Attitudes and opinions about the consumption of tobacco have shifted in recent decades, and scientific research has repeatedly confirmed the danger of tobacco use. As park and recreation agencies seek to improve public health, protect the environment, and uphold public trust, prohibiting the use or consumption of tobacco at our ball fields, recreation centers, parks, splash pads and walking trails will go a long way towards encouraging healthier lifestyles among the families and communities we serve.

The benefits of a tobacco prohibition include:

  • Healthier recreational environments that promote physical activity, encourage personal development, and minimize exposure to tobacco use and secondhand smoke.
  • Less tobacco use and initiation among child and adult visitors at park and recreation facilities.
  • More public awareness about the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Better health equity and fewer health disparities among visitors to park and recreation facilities.
  • Cleaner parks that contribute to a high-quality recreation experience because they are free of tobacco, secondhand smoke and cigarette butts.
  • Fewer carcinogens, toxic metals and poisonous gases from secondhand smoke and tobacco products that impact human health, worsen air quality and impair physical activity necessary to fully enjoy park and recreation facilities.
  • Fresher air, smoke-free facilities and better respiratory health for all visitors to park and recreation facilities.

Statement of Facts

This document represents NRPA’s commitment to reducing the number of people who die from tobacco or tobacco-related illnesses each year or who suffer from tobacco-related diseases by prohibiting the use and consumption of tobacco at park and recreation facilities. As such, the NRPA Position Statement on Tobacco Consumption in Parks contains the following facts, figures, declarations and beliefs:

Tobacco-Free Park and Recreation Facilities

  • Park and recreation facilities are designed to encourage healthy behavior, physical activity and social interaction that bring communities and individuals together to enhance their quality of life.
  • Devices or objects that encourage and enable tobacco consumption (cigarette receptacles, ash trays, etc.) should be removed from park and recreation facilities.
  • Attitudes and beliefs about the dangers of tobacco consumption should be shaped through education and training of all park and recreation stakeholders (staff, volunteers, students and the broader community).

By supporting a prohibition on tobacco consumption at park and recreation facilities, NRPA is dedicated to the following goals:

  • Preventing initiation of tobacco use among children, youth and young adults at park and recreation facilities.
  • Ending tobacco use among adults visiting park and recreation facilities.
  • Ending exposure to secondhand smoke at park and recreation facilities.
  • Eliminating tobacco-related disparities among the communities and individuals we serve.
  • Improving quality of life at park and recreation facilities.
  • Stopping environmental degradation at park and recreation facilities caused by cigarette butts and filters.

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