Roeland Park bans smoking in public parks, violators could be fined $100

Roeland Park joins the Johnson County communities of Lenexa and Westwood Hills with its ban on smoking in parks. Photo credit Shannon Holman/Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Roeland Park is the latest Johnson County city to ban smoking and all tobacco products in its public parks and other recreational facilities.

The city council this week voted 5-2 to approve the ban, which will take effect no sooner than March 31.

The ban also pertains to the community and aquatic centers, the sports dome, athletic fields, tennis courts, walking trails, restrooms, spectator and concession areas, and their public grounds, according to council documents.

Ward 1 Councilmember Tom Madigan and Ward 3 Councilmember Claudia McCormack opposed the measure.

“I just feel that it’s a bit of an encroachment on an outdoor space,” McCormack said, despite saying that there was “very moving evidence” that people should not smoke in public areas.

Madigan said he didn’t understand why the council rejected the parks committee’s and city attorney’s recommendation to ban smoking within 15 feet of certain features at parks and other city-owned recreational facilities. These included playgrounds, restrooms, courts and shelters, rather than designated smoking areas.

Roeland Park isn’t the first Johnson County city to ban smoking in public parks. The Public Health Law Center issued a report in February 2019 on tobacco-free parks policies that identified 33 city and county jurisdictions in Kansas, including Lenexa and Westwood Hills. Other Kansas cities with tobacco-free parks include Atchison, Great Bend, Hutchinson and Lawrence.

Citizen survey shows support for idea

Roeland Park residents appear to support the ban.

A question on the 2019 Citizen Survey — “How supportive are you of making all the parks in the City of Roeland Park smoke free?” — received 604 responses, according to council documents and Assistant City Administrator Jennifer Jones-Lacy in February.

Excluding 19 respondents who said they didn’t know, 60% said they were very supportive, 17% were neutral and 12% were supportive.

However, 6% were not supportive and 5% were not at all supportive.

Data from the American College of Cardiology showed smoking bans significantly reduced heart attack risk, especially among young people and nonsmokers.

Ban includes fines

The ordinance stipulates the following maximum fines plus court costs:

  • First violation: $100
  • Second violation within one year of the first: $200
  • Third or subsequent violation within one year of the first: $500

City staff estimated the cost of installing signs at 15 affected locations would be about $1,500.

Last month, Madigan said the council should “remember that we are a city for ages, and there are young people and old people that smoke,” though he supported banning smoking near where children were playing, bathrooms and other park features. But he added that the council had “to accommodate other people.”

Ward 4 Councilmember Jim Kelly said last month that in addition to an ordinance imposing fines, enforcement “would also give our bike patrol something to do.”