Nine-year-old Amber Trappel was sick of smoke stopping her and her younger sister Penny, seven, from playing – so she decided to make a change.
Like many children their age, Amber and her younger sister, Penny, enjoy playing at the park. However, early in 2020, Amber started to notice people smoking close to where they would play, as well as cigarette butts littered around the park and playground.
The smoky air smelled awful and made them cough. It made Amber worry for Penny, who has asthma. She was scared it would make her sick and trigger an asthma attack.
South Australia has the highest rate of asthma prevalence in the country, with 13 per cent of the population having asthma, compared to the national average of 11.2 per cent.
“People smoking and littering made the playground dirty and not a nice area to play in,” Amber said.
“I knew cigarettes were damaging to our health and the environment. I wanted to do something about it, not just to help Penny but for our entire community. So, with the help of my parents, I wrote a letter to our local council.”
Not long after, Councillor Matt Osborn contacted Amber and her parents to talk about possible options. Cr Osborn then put forward a motion at a meeting of Council to install signs informing park users that smoking is banned within 10 metres of play spaces used by children at over 120 sites in the Port Adelaide Enfield (PAE) area.
Amber was invited to present and read her letter during a Council meeting in March 2020. The Smoke Free Playgrounds Motion was unanimously endorsed by Council.
“This truly is a case of democracy in action,” Cr Osborn said.
“Amber wrote to me last year concerned about the impact cigarette smoking was having on her younger sister’s asthma. Inspired by the letter, we are installing signs across the council area letting people know they can’t smoke within 10 metres of parks and playgrounds.
“Thanks for taking action, Amber. I would hope other young people can feel empowered by your example to make change happen.”
The PAE Council also ran a Smoke Free Playgrounds Poster competition. The winning posters were distributed to raise awareness of cigarette smoking and the health impact on children. Amber and Penny were also successful in gaining a grant through the City of Burnside’s Your Neighbourhood Budget, to get no smoking signs installed at the Tusmore Park playground.
Amber, now 10, is encouraging other young people to take a stand on the issues that matter to them.
“You don’t need to be a grown-up to make a difference, you’re unique and special the way you are. Visit your local library and get involved in their community programs and workshops, read lots of books (and National Geographic Kids Magazine!), and learn about the environment.”
Earlier this year, Amber was awarded a PAE Australia Day Service to the Community Award, for her community work. To date, she is the youngest PAE Australia Day Awards recipient.
Amber’s mother, Sharon Trappel, said that Amber feels very proud to have been able to make such a difference in their community and to have helped to make the world a better place.
“Amber’s sister, her friends at school, and the wider community have all been inspired by her story. We are all so proud of her.”
Amber has high hopes to be the Prime Minister and a university professor, because “when I am the Prime Minister, I will make Australia, and maybe even some other parts of the world a better place.”
To learn more about cigarette smoke as a trigger for asthma click here.
To download our free asthma and smoking brochure click here.