News and Highlights

Survey results conclude public is in favor of designated smoking areas at Kansas State Fair

About 80 percent of those responding to an online survey said they are in favor of the Kansas State Fair having designated smoking areas.

The survey results were released last month by Reno County Communities That Care, whose youth leadership pushed for a state fair policy change.

After more than a year of discussions, the state fair board approved in May a change in its smoking policy, which will go into effect in 2016. However, despite the approval, the 150-member youth decided to conduct a public survey to strengthen their position about creating designated smoking areas.

The survey is part of the group’s "Clear the Air" campaign, which is aimed at reducing secondhand smoke exposure in Reno County through policy changes and media campaigns. The first target was the fair, followed by the city of Hutchinson, whose council members this fall passed banning e-cigarettes anywhere smoking already was banned.

"We are very excited to move forward with the plan," said Carla Smith, a program coordinator for Communities That Care, adding, "The CTC kids are eager to help."

A total of 552 people responded to the survey. A majority of the respondents were women and nonsmokers, according to the results. Half had children under the age of 18.

Additional survey data:

  • The average age of survey respondents was 42.5.
  • Eighty percent of survey respondents were from Reno County.
  • Forty-two of the 57 people providing comments – or 74 percent – were in favor of banning smoking entirely or having designated smoking areas.
  • Thirty of the 57 providing comment – 53 percent – were for banning smoking entirely at the state fair.
  • Of the 20.7 percent who indicated they were not in favor of smoking areas, 11.4 percent commented that their "no" response was only due to the fact that they preferred a complete smoking ban at the state fair.

"I do not smoke and I hate it when people smoke around me. If smoking is allowed at the Kansas State Fair, please have a designated area for it or not have it at all," said one respondent.

"I do not have a problem with smoking areas as long as they are located in several areas of the fair where people would not have to spend all their time walking to just smoke," said another respondent.

Prior to the policy change, area students in the Communities That Care program had made multiple appearances at fair board meetings to talk about the proposal. Efforts started in March 2014, when the group rolled a transparent case of 2,650 cigarette butts they had collected in one hour at the fair into a fair board meeting. About 16 members traveled to Manhattan in March 2015 to press the issue further, showing fair board members a map of proposed smoking areas across the grounds.

Previously, smoking was not allowed in buildings and in the grandstand seating area. The carnival company also has a policy in its "kiddie land" area. However, some more congested areas of the grounds – like the Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers Arena, Gottschalk Park bleachers and Lake Talbott stage area – did not have a nonsmoking policy.

The group hopes to encourage the fair board to review the survey results and provide multiple smoking areas to help ensure the change is positive and successful for both smokers and those who desire to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.

Susan Sankey – who took over as the fair’s general manager last week – said she is still getting up to speed on the plan. Fair staff is still studying how to best implement the smoking policy, she said.

Smith, however, said that besides the survey, youth explored the fair this year, seeing where people congregated to smoke.

"And mostly, what we found is they’d be behind air-conditioning units behind buildings, Dumpsters. A majority are out of the way, not in the crowd," she said.

She added that was different than what the youth have found in previous years – which could be from the designated smoking assignment.

"I think (fairgoers) were aware there were changes and were not aware what the changes were," Smith said.

Meanwhile, youth picked out eight spots across the grounds they thought would be good smoking areas. They emailed the list to former interim fair manager Lori Hart.

Smith added the Reno County Health Department has granted CTC money to help pay for signage if the fair board so chooses, along with reminder cards to be handed out at the gate during the 2016 fair. The group also has said it would pay for five tents for the designated areas at $200 a piece.

CTC youth also have offered to help with landscaping of designated smoking areas.

By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News
Posted On Dec 3, 2015
Fair Vote

Photo courtesy Carla Smith

Two students from Dodge City pick up cigarettes on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson in 2013

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