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Smoke-free signage in public parks: impacts on smoking behaviour
  1. Heather N Platter1,
  2. Steven B Pokorny2
  1. 1Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Heather N Platter, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland, School of Public Health (Bldg #255), 4200 Valley Drive, Suite 1234, College Park, MD 20742, USA ; hplatter{at}


Objective Behavioural interventions, such as smoke-free signage, are used to support air quality in public outdoor spaces that are not protected by a smoke-free policy, such as states with preemptive clause legislation. However, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of these interventions. This paper is an evaluation of whether smoke-free signage posted in public parks altered smoking behaviours of park patrons.

Methods A time-series quasi-experimental design was used. Cigarette butts were collected at the same day and time every week in ten amenities within four parks in 2011. Each park completed a baseline period until a stable trend emerged at six weeks, then received smoke-free signage for the six week intervention period. There were 1684 cigarette butts collected during baseline and 1008 collected during the intervention phase.

Findings Wilcoxon signed-rank test demonstrated that smoking at seven out of ten amenities decreased and the overall decrease was significant at p=0.028. Individual parks and amenities grouped by type did not experience a statistically significant change. A neighbourhood median income trend was visually discovered, revealing that as income increased, there was a greater decrease in cigarette butts.

Conclusions This study provides evidence on the impact of smoke-free signage not supported by local ordinance in public parks using a reproducible measure. States, especially those with a preemptive clause legislation, may benefit from incorporating smoke-free signage in public areas to protect community members from exposure to tobacco smoke, reduce littering, and denormalise smoking.

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Denormalization
  • Prevention
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Environment

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  • Contributors HNP is responsible for the overall content as guarantor. She completed this research for her master’s thesis. She trained volunteers, collected and stored all data, analysed data, created tables and figures, successfully defended her master thesis and wrote this entire manuscript. SBP was on Heather Platter’s Thesis Committee. He had the idea for the study due to his position at the Alachua County Health Department, Tobacco Free Alachua. He provided guidance and support to HNP throughout her master thesis. He also proof-read and edited the submitted manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.