A Thousand Voices: Survey shows support for smoking ban in city parks

Most LJWorld.com readers who responded to our latest survey said they supported a proposed policy that would ban smoking in city parks.

The policy, which was discussed at the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department’s advisory board meeting Nov. 10, would ban tobacco use on all of the department’s land, including all 54 parks, Eagle Bend Golf Course and bleachers at sports facilities.

About this article

A Thousand Voices is a feature that surveys readers of LJWorld.com about their opinions on a variety of issues being debated by the public. The Journal-World will regularly conduct a poll that captures a representative sample of the approximately 35,000 users of LJWorld.com. All polling will be conducted by our partner, Google Consumer Surveys. The Google system chooses participants for the poll at random. Users of LJWorld.com have no ability to choose to take the poll. Some people had this survey presented to them when they went to our website and some didn’t. Each poll consists of at least 1,000 responses from website users. The survey software calculates results using margins of error and 95 percent confidence levels common to the polling industry.

If you have a topic you would like to see as part of a future poll, please suggest it to Nikki Wentling at nwentling@ljworld.com

A draft of the policy shown to board members Nov. 10 says tobacco products and “associated delivery devices” would be banned. That includes electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, the department’s director, Ernie Shaw, said.

Banning e-cigarettes is a move that also got support from the approximately 1,000 people who were surveyed.

When asked about whether there should be a larger step taken concerning e-cigarettes (to include them in the city’s smoking laws) most people answered “yes.”

Here’s a look at the results:

• A majority of respondents — 61.6 percent of them — answered that they supported the department’s policy to ban tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, in all city parks and other department-owned land. The remaining responses were that they didn’t support the policy (23.1 percent) and “not sure” (15.3 percent). The results had a margin of error of 2.1 to 3.

• When asked about the city’s current smoking laws, which eliminate smoking in enclosed public spaces and places of employment, 61.6 percent of respondents said they should include e-cigarettes (the same percentage who answered “yes” to the above question). Slightly more people (18.4 percent) answered “not sure” to this question, and 20 percent said the city’s smoking restrictions should not include e-cigarettes. The margin of error was 2.5 to 3.

Before being asked these questions, people were required to say whether they shopped and dined in Lawrence. We added that screening question in an effort to get responses from people who were out in public spaces.

Looking at the results, it’s easy to assume the people who answered “yes” to the first question were the same people who said they wanted e-cigarettes to be included in the city’s smoking restrictions. That could be, but with the margin of error and the inability to look at individuals’ answers, we can’t say with certainty.

It could be that more people are not sure about the inclusion of e-cigarettes to city code because that would be an alteration to the law. The policy to ban smoking in parks is only a Parks and Rec policy, meaning it won’t be legally enforced.

Because it’s only a policy, it may be more likely that it will gain all of the necessary approval than if it were a change to city law.

Shaw said at the Nov. 10 meeting that the ban would probably be imposed only where there are gatherings of people and when the department receives complaints.

Before the ban goes into effect, the Parks and Rec advisory board has to approve the policy at its December meeting. Then, it will go before the Lawrence City Commission for the final go-ahead.

The intent, as noted by Chris Tilden, director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s community health program, is to get cigarettes and other tobacco devices away from areas where kids congregate.