Learn more about Play Tobacco Free

Play Tobacco Free is an initiative developed by Healthy Communities Wyandotte (HCW). Nearly one in four Wyandotte County adults currently use tobacco compared to only 17.7% in Kansas as a whole.  In order to combat this disparity, HCW is inviting community partners to implement policies that create tobacco free spaces where children and families spend time together. By increasing the amount of tobacco-free policies in WyCo recreation spaces, we aim to decrease exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco litter and prevent future tobacco use among our youth. Tobacco-free policies, coupled with signage, have proven effective in achieving these goals. We believe that children and families in WyCo, deserve recreation spaces where they can congregate and play without being subjected to the deadly effects of tobacco.

Join us in working toward a healthier Wyandotte County. 


Why Play Tobacco Free?  

Since the first unveiling of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County health rankings, Wyandotte County (WyCo) has ranked last for health in KS....

While there are many reasons why WyCo has such poor health outcomes, smoking continues to be one of the main risk factors that harm our community. In WyCo, 23.9% of adults smoke compared to 17.7% of adults in Kansas[1]. HCW recognizes that this disparity is a social injustice and that in order to achieve health equity, or the highest attainable health for all, we must work strategically and urgently to reverse this trend.

In 2017, smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and Kansas. One in every 3 cases of cancer is linked to tobacco use and more women die every year from lung cancer than breast cancer. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined[2],[3] . Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and is linked to heart attacks, blindness, diabetes, prematurity, SIDS, and many more devastating health conditions.

What’s more, the tobacco industry targets low income, high minority neighborhoods’ with their deadly marketing. Research has shown that low-income neighborhoods have denser concentrations of tobacco retailers and are more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools than other neighborhoods[4] . This point of sale marketing strategy has served the industry well with more than a quarter (26%) of adults who live below the poverty level currently smoking compared to just 14% of those at or above the poverty level[5].

Healthy Communities Wyandotte reversing the damage done to our community by the tobacco industry through evidence-based, community centered policy changes.

[1] 2015 Kansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Local Data [2] United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), and National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (U.S.). 2001. Women and smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. [3] "Key Statistics for Lung Cancer." American Cancer Society. January 5, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. [4] D’Angelo, Heather, Alice Ammerman, Penny Gordon-Larsen, Laura Linnan, Leslie Lytle, and Kurt M. Ribisl. 2016. “Sociodemographic Disparities in Proximity of Schools to Tobacco Outlets and Fast-Food Restaurants.” American Journal of Public Health 106 (9): 1556–62. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303259. [5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2016;65(44):1205–11 [accessed 2016 Nov 14].

The Health argument: Protecting Children from Secondhand Smoke

A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General which reported that there no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke (2006)....

Further studies have shown that levels of second-hand smoke outdoors can be equal to levels indoors where smoking is allowed (“Support for Smokefree Parks,” Public Health Law & Policy, 2011). Secondhand smoke is linked to heart attacks and stroke, cancer, and respiratory problems in adults and can lead to SIDS, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and asthma attacks with children.

At HCW, we believe that no family should fear their child having an asthma attack or getting cancer when they are at parks or other recreation spaces.

Volunteers picked up over 1,000 pieces of tobacco litter by the end of the day at Huron Park in Downtown KCK. 

Volunteers picked up over 1,000 pieces of tobacco litter by the end of the day at Huron Park in Downtown KCK. 

The Prevention Argument: Preventing youth from initiating tobacco use

In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General named establishing smoke-free public places as a best practice for preventing tobacco use among youth (A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, 2012)....

Children with parents and adult role models who smoke are more likely to initiate tobacco use. They are also more likely to start smoking if it is a norm in the community, by making spaces tobacco free, we are sending the message to our youth that we do not want them to suffer with a lifetime addiction to tobacco. There is no way to lower the smoking rate in our community without preventing our youth from smoking. This is a necessary part of our strategy.

The ENvironmental Arugument: Reducing Tobacco Litter

Tobacco , particularly cigarette butts, are the most littered item in the world. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and they leach toxic chemicals (the same chemicals that make you sick) into the environment 1.

4.5 Trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide each year2 All of this litter poses a particular risk in our recreation spaces were animals and children may pick them up or even ingest them....

Even national organizations like the National Recreation and Parks Association have taken a stance against tobacco use and tobacco litter in parks. Check out their policy statement here: http://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/tobacco-consumption-in-parks/

  1. "The Environment vs Cigarettes." Quit Smoking Community. 27 Nov. 2013.
  2. Slaughter, E., R. M. Gersberg, K. Watanabe, J. Rudolph, C. Stransky, and T. E. Novotny. "Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and Their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish." Tobacco Control 20.Supplement 1 (2011): I25-29.

Volunteers picked up over 400 pieces of tobacco litter in just a couple hours at Bethany Park in the heart of KCK. 

Unfortunately, tobacco companies disproportionately target poor and minority communities with advertising for their deadly products making gas stations and stores spaces that are a danger to the health of our community. 

Unfortunately, tobacco companies disproportionately target poor and minority communities with advertising for their deadly products making gas stations and stores spaces that are a danger to the health of our community. 

The social justice argument: Tobacco disproportionately targets poor and minority populations. 

while the misconception that tobacco addiction is a personal choice is alive and well, in 2017 we know that tobacco is NOT an equal opportunity killer. In fact, our society is set up in such a way as to promote tobacco use in some populations over and above others to ensure profits for tobacco companies while ignoring the health crisis in others. But we don't have to let this continue...

Patterns of tobacco use are no accident. As the evidence for tobacco addiction and the destruction that these products cause in the human body became clear to the general public - major cigarette manufacturers were convicted by the United States government of violating rackateering laws by carrying out a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the American public and target children with their deadly and addictive products. (http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what_we_do/industry_watch/doj_lawsuit/)

Through internal documents made public through this lawsuit, as well as years of research on product placement and prevelance, we now understand the depth of targeting by Big Tobacco. Check out the Truth Initative for information on disparities among different populations: https://truthinitiative.org/topics/who-smokes

Cigarette smoking is highest among people with less formal education and among people living below the poverty line. Check out these stats: