Kenai Peninsula Fair goes smoke-free

Fair patrons can now breathe easy

It is that time of year, the aromas of kettle corn, hot dogs and funnel cakes will be in the air Friday through Sunday the Kenai Peninsula Fair in Ninilchik.


One smell that won’t be wafting across fairground is cigarette smoke.

The Kenai Peninsula Fair Association Board approved a policy on May 16, which went into effect June 1, to make the fairgrounds a smoke-free workplace.

The Kenai Peninsula Fair’s policy follows the smoke-free efforts of the Alaska State Fair, which went smoke-free in 2011.

Lara McGinnis, Kenai Peninsula Fair manager, wrote in a press release that the smoke-free fair affirms a family friendly atmosphere, reducing the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle and protects the public and fair workers from smoking and tobacco related litter and pollution.

“Eighty percent of our litter patrol is done by 4-H youth and it is not fair to ask them to pick up cigarette butts dropped on the ground by irresponsible smokers. It’s just not in line with our mission statement and the message we want to give our youth,” she said.

Jenny Olendorff, Program Coordinator with Peninsula Smoke-free Partnership, said fair goers will be aware of the new policy with bright banner signs at both entrances and 10 to 12 metal signs throughout the fair.

Olendorff said the fair has also advertised with local media outlets to create awareness about the new policy.

“We want the public to go there knowing what’s going on,” Olendorff said.

Fairs across the nation have chosen to take the smoke-free route. The Minnesota State Fair, held in St. Paul, adopted a smoke free policy in 2013. In 2012, Minnesota television station KARE11 reported a toddler had been accidently poked in the eye by a passerby’s lit cigarette and that sparked a debate about the need to have smoke-free fairgrounds.

Many businesses across the Kenai Peninsula have voluntarily chosen to go smoke free in the past several years. Olendorff said because the fair grounds are a workplace for many, the policy just made sense.

She believes the lack of public smoking has helped with the decrease of smokers in Alaska.

“What we have noticed on a state level, is that, if you look at statistics dating back to 1995 and 1996, adult smoking rates in Alaska have dropped from 28 percent in 1996 to 20.4 percent in 2010,” she said.

She noted that rates have also dropped with the high school aged smokers.

“Among Alaska high schoolers, in 1995 the high school smoking rate was 37 percent and in 2011 it was down to 14.1 percent,” she said.

She said both the drop in adult and high school aged smoking is a positive step in the right direction.

“So we know that good tobacco prevention control policies and programs work,” Olendorff said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we know that they work.”

To spread the word, she said the Peninsula Smoke-Free Partnership will have a booth under the BP tent near the main entrance.

“Peninsula Smoke-Free Partnership will have a presence there. Typically when we go to the fair or health fairs or any other event, we have education and advocacy materials available and we also promote Alaska’s tobacco quit line,” she said.

Olendorff‘s is passionate about helping Alaskans quite, mostly because she knows first-hand what it is like to be a smoker. She said she fought addiction with tobacco, beginning in college. She was finally able to give up the habit twenty years later in 1998.

“We have known since 1964 since the first surgeons general report that (smoking) is bad for you. It’s not that I didn’t know that,” she said. “I considered myself a social smoker,” she said.

She said that the fair’s smoke free policy will be good for those affected by second-hand smoke.

“Second hand smoke obeys all the laws of physics. It is kind of like peeing in a pool… Particularly when smokers gather in a small concentrated area,” she said.

“No matter where you are or who is exposed to it,” she said. “It is what it is.”

Also, she said cigarette butts are the most littered item in America, the small items are made of plastic and do not biodegrade.

“It is kind of a socially accepted for of litter,” she said.

Smokers who wish to partake will find a designated smoking area near the rodeo grounds and in the beer garden.

Sara J. Hardan can be reached at