The smell of fresh coffee, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes filled every inch of the Town & Country Restaurant south of Towne West Square on Tuesday.
What was missing – and what has been missing for three years – was the cigarette smoke.
Members of the Kansas Health Foundation, Tobacco Free Wichita, The Sunflower Foundation and others with the Kansas Clean Indoor Air Partnership gathered at the restaurant to celebrate the third anniversary of the Kansas Clean Indoor Air Act. The act, passed by the state Legislature three years ago, eliminated smoking in all public places, such as the Town & Country. Casinos were the only exception.
Natasha Baker, daughter of Town & Country owner Larry Conover, said the restaurant probably couldn’t have expanded its customer base if not for the smoking ban.
“When we went non-smoking, it brought in a lot more business,” Baker said. “I’m glad they had us do this.”
Charlie Claycomb, former director of Tobacco Free Wichita, said he lives close to Old Town and is happy he can go to a bar or take his kids somewhere without having to worry about secondhand smoke.
“It’s so nice to be able to go to a bar or restaurant and not have to breathe that type of air,” he said.
A recent poll commissioned by the Sunflower Foundation showed that 78 percent of registered voters in Kansas strongly favored the law; 29 percent also said they had more support for the law since it went into effect.
Doug Farmer, vice president of the Sunflower Foundation, an organization that works to improve public health around Kansas, said it “took some courage” for the Legislature to pass a statewide law like the Clean Indoor Air Act. But “to see how many people support it now,” he said, “really shows” it was a good decision.
Baker said her father described the law as their own “stimulus package,” because of the increased business it created.
“We were losing customers that couldn’t come because of the environment,” Baker said. “It also wasn’t possible to have two separate areas because the place is so open.”
Linda DeCoursey, executive director of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition, said celebrations like the one on Tuesday are important because they show legislators that Kansans still support the law.
“Every single year we’ve had a legislator try to repeal this law,” DeCoursey said. “We love this law, so don’t take it away.”
The celebration on Tuesday was the first of several events to take place across the state during the next month. The partnership is also encouraging people to go to www.ThanksKansas.com, where they can post stories and photos.