The efforts of STAND (a student-led substance abuse prevention effort sponsored by Mirror Inc.) and Healthy Harvey have been spreading in the county, with Hesston the latest target for effecting positive change.
Hesston High School students in STAND and Healthy Harvey coordinator Lorrie Kessler did an audit of city parks looking for signs of tobacco use and came before the Hesston City Council with a presentation — and a recommendation. The proposed tobacco-free ordinance was intended to eliminate the smoking of tobacco products in all open public places (like parks), not just enclosed spaces covered in a previous ordinance. After a period of review, with an exemption made for the Hesston Golf Course, the city council recently approved the new ordinance (010-2019-215) — which officially went into effect on Aug. 22.
With the focus on prohibiting smoking tobacco products in open spaces, the ordinance addressed the goal of both STAND and Healthy Harvey — creating healthier environments for children and families in the community.
For the golf course, which created a delay in the adoption of the ordinance, the city viewed its patrons as a more mature crowd. That fact was part of what led to its ultimate exemption from the list of tobacco-free public places.
"Quite honestly, a lot of patrons out there might want to have a cigar," said Hesston Mayor David Kauffman. "We want to try to cater to everyone, but since it is more adult out there, we figured that wouldn't hurt."
City administrator Gary Emry also pointed out that part of the reason that exemption was allowed was because of established practice in other cities with such ordinances (where similar exemptions were made). He also pointed out that, while the demographic does skew older, there is a delineation of play between adults and youth at the golf course that made it easier to approve that exemption — while there is also less concern about some of the negative side effects of tobacco use there in comparison with other open, public places.
"We don’t experience the same degree of tobacco waste products on the golf course as we see in our other public places," Emry said. "People smoking in the parks tend to throw their waste on the ground where they are, while on the golf course they do a good job of disposing of it properly. I can’t explain why that happens that way ... it just does."
One of the biggest advantages of the new ordinance Emry pointed to — lining up with the goals of the organizations pushing for it — is a decrease in the increased health hazard posed by secondhand smoke in open public spaces. Signage will now be put up in city parks and if citizens see someone smoking in those areas, they can report it to 911 for on-duty police to respond to the issue.
Violations of the ordinance can result in fines up to $500 (which may be suspended in lieu of participation in a smoking cessation program or community service) for individuals and the revocation of permits/licenses for those in control of those places covered in the ordinance.
Enforcement could be somewhat difficult (as is typical with such ordinances), according to Kauffman, but he applauds the efforts of STAND and Healthy Harvey to push for such measures. Kauffman pointed out how different that is from when he was growing up — when smoking was allowed on airplanes, in the teacher's lounge, etc. — and sees that approach as beneficial to the overall quality of life in Hesston.
"We're evolving in some really good ways as far as that goes," Kauffman said, "and we just want to continue to have the healthiest environment we can for all of our citizens."
"I think everyone would agree that a smoke-free public environment can add to healthier lifestyles, which in turn results in longer life," Emry said. "I think the council did a great job in considering this ordinance and finding a delicate balance in being good stewards of the spaces they are responsible for, while balancing the degree to which can be viewed as impeding on the freedoms and rights of others who choose to smoke or use smokeless tobacco products."
Hesston's new tobacco-free ordinance will be up to view in full on the city website, www.hesstonks.org, through Aug. 29.