Commissioners grapple with state smoking ban
Post Independent Staff
Smokers beware ” the newly adopted Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act will take effect this summer.
The Garfield County Commissioners debated the pros and cons of the act and its impact on local government Monday.
When the law goes into effect on July 1, all bars and restaurants, public buildings like the county courthouse, and private places where the public gathers, will be off-limits to smoking.
Local governments will also have to establish a nonsmoking perimeter around their buildings, said Shelley Evans, who contracts with the state to provide technical assistance to local governments on implementing the act.
According to the law, smokers must be at least 15 feet away from buildings so that second-hand cigarette smoke doesn’t drift into them.
Fort Collins adopted a 50-foot perimeter, Evans said. The burning question for the commissioners was enforcement of the law. Adopting the mantra of other county sheriffs and city police forces around the state, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario has said the county will enforce the law but won’t go out of its way to do so, chiefly because his force lacks manpower.
“He won’t be setting up smoking spot checks,” said Commissioner Larry McCown.
“I think the state should (enforce the law),” said Commissioner John Martin.
Smokers who light up in forbidden places will face a $200 fine for the first offense, $300 for the second and $500 thereafter. If someone is caught more than once in a day the fines will increase, Evans said.
In reality, enforcement will depend on complaints called into local police and sheriff’s departments. Businesses will also have to take a hand in enforcing the law on their own, Evans said.
“I do believe it will take us a couple of years to be self-enforcing,” she said. “It will take a lot of education.”
As written, the law appears to take aim at some businesses and exempt others, said McCown.
For example, while smoking will be prohibited in taxis it will be allowed in limos, he said.
“If I was a business owner, I should have the ability to (designate) smoking and non-smoking taxis,” he said. “This bill benefits specific businesses while penalizing others.”
The commissioners also found some gray areas in the act, including how it applies to ski areas. Assistant County Manager Jesse Smith asked if ski slopes are considered off limits to smoking.
“No, they are not considered part of the public area,” Evans said. Public areas include lift lines, ticket sales areas, ski lodges and decks.
Vail Resorts, which operates the Vail ski area, has declared parts of its area smoke-free, including the gondolas, but not the chair lifts themselves.
Referring to Sunlight Mountain Resort, a ski area close to Glenwood Springs, Commissioner Tresi Houpt said, “To those of us who don’t smoke, it would be great (if the chairs were off-limits to smoking.)”
Evans said the law will have a positive outcome.
“I really hope if we do good education and offer quality cessation (stop-smoking) programs … over the course of a few years, we’ll see fewer smokers.”
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