Tobacco ban could come to Wichita parks

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At Riverside Park, you see a lot of signs for no camping, no smoking and a Wichita group hopes there will soon be a sign stopping outdoor smoking, soon.

“So that we can have tobacco products and other forms of waste banned in Wichita,” said Dominic Bann, a member of the Mayor's Youth Council and Play Healthy ICT.

He and others came up with a policy which would ban smoking and tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and vaping devices, in all city parks and on trails.

“We’ve done park cleanups for tobacco, tobacco-related waste,” Bann said.

“When we’ve been out in the community, there have been people who smoke who have said ‘I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet,’” said Tara Nolen with the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians. “We have the athletic fields policy, it makes sense.”

The group proposed two options to the city’s Parks Board at a meeting Monday. One would be to amend the existing athletics field policy – which would ban tobacco use on the city’s parks. That option would require a vote by the board. But in order for police to enforce a similar policy, an ordinance would need to be created that goes before the Wichita city Council.

So far, opinions are mixed.

“I mean, smoking tobacco in an outdoor environment, I think it’s a better place than a confined city park,” said one Frisbee golf player Monday afternoon. “I think an outdoor park is a lot better, it’s okay.”

“These two kids here complain about the smell of it,” said Jeremy Keil, a Wichita resident. “I’d totally be for a ban.”

Members of the Mayor’s Youth Council said they pitched the idea as an effort to create a cleaner parks system. They showed pictures of the parks current condition with cigarette butts lying across the ground. They also hope it will help curb youth smoking and vaping.

Parks board members said the issue deserves consideration.

“City Council would ultimately have the final say,” said Ty Tabing, with the Wichita Parks Board. “But it’s green space meant to be used by all.”

The policy written will be reviewed by board members before a meeting next week. By then, members of the City Council and other city officials will also be back in town to review the measure and offer further input.

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