When Healthier Lyon County first began to advocate for tobacco-free policies in settings where people gather, the intent was that the Emporia City Commission would embrace the idea of tobacco-free parks. The inspiration for the effort was the “Young Lungs at Play” program developed in Pennsylvania, and since then replicated in Kansas.
Demonstrating sufficient evidence to the Commissioners that a tobacco-free parks Ordinance would be worthwhile and promote the City’s concern for healthy outdoor activities entailed the culmination of data that reflected the dangers of exposure to tobacco smoke, even when outside, how tobacco butts were a danger to the environment, young children and pets and, probably most impressive, environmental scans which entailed college students combing parks and playgrounds to pick up discarded butts. These butts were collected in bags labeled with the location in the specific park where they were gathered.
As discussions at several City Commission meetings evolved, it became apparent to Daphne Mertens and Teresa Briggs that a compromise was going to have to be made. Emporia is known as the Disc Golf Capital of the World and, sometimes, the Disc Golf Disneyland due to an event called the Glass Blown Open. The event was created in 2003 by owners of Dynamic Discs in Emporia. A description of the event by the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce explains how it has earned its name: ‘…the largest disc golf tournament in the world! 1,700 disc golfers from 47 states and 10 countries flock to Emporia for a week filled with play, fun, camaraderie, new friends, and competition. Community events include a craft beer festival, mini disc golf tournaments, a Swedish bonfire and a downtown block party.’ And this annual tournament utilizes all of the numerous parks in Emporia, where there are now five 18-hole and three 9-hole permanent disc golf courses.
As one can imagine, the event brings in a lot of income for the city and it is well known that the golfers smoke. After careful consideration, Healthier Lyon County made the concession that the Ordinance cover playgrounds as well as youth sporting venues to minimize the impact a tobacco-free parks ordinance would have on the Tournament and city coffers.