Regional: Breckenridge looks at public e-cig, vape pen laws
What a difference 40 years makes.
As a child in the 1970s, Ken Nelson of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association remembers when smokers could light up just about anywhere: nightclubs, high-end restaurants, après patios, the dive bar down the street. Swirling smoke was considered yet another piece of the dining experience.
These days, decades of research on second-hand smoke have changed the restaurant industry. Smoking isn’t allowed anywhere at Nelson’s three Main Street establishments, including the outdoor patios he considers extensions of the dining rooms. For him, it’s a courtesy to all patrons, and smokers are often more than willing to oblige.
“I think smokers have always been good about accommodating others,” Nelson said. “They’re tuned into watching where these (smoking) areas are, and I think people understand where they can go and where they can’t. Even smokers aren’t accustomed to having smoke in their face when they eat.”
But habits are shifting once again. On Wednesday, the Breckenridge Town Council heard a series of revisions to the town’s current smoking ordinance. The proposed changes aren’t 40 years in the making — indoor smoking has been banned across the town and state since 2006 — but they highlight a relatively new slice of tobacco (and marijuana) culture: electronic smoking devices.
As defined by the revised ordinance, electronic smoking devices run the gamut from electronic cigarettes to oil-based vaporizer pens. The revisions also ban smoking — electronic and otherwise — at all indoor and outdoor public areas owned by the town, including Blue River Plaza, the riverside bike path and golf club facilities, excluding the course of play itself. The ban is paired with a 10-foot “buffer zone” restriction for business entryways, restaurant patios and public transit stations.
The town council unanimously approved the revised ordinance on its first reading Wednesday night, and no business owners or town residents opposed the changes. The ordinance will take effect if passed during the second reading at the next regular meeting on Jan. 27.
Silverthorne and Dillon have considered similar restrictions — the Dillon council will discuss smoking at the Jan. 20 work session — but neither town has written drafts ordinances.
Before approving the Breckenridge revisions, Mayor John Warner wondered aloud about the impact they will have on casual, everyday smokers.
“This is something new and perhaps will be important for some people,” Warner said at the meeting. When he asked how long other Colorado towns have banned electronic devices and smoking in entryways, Breckenridge chief of police Shannon Haynes noted that Denver and Boulder passed similar smoking laws several years ago, and Breck’s proposed changes are in line with most of the state.
The revisions also are based on local input. GoBreck, Engage Breckenridge and the restaurant association conducted a survey, which found the majority of respondents supported a 10-foot buffer zone near entryways and outdoor dining areas.
The second-hand question
For the council and business owners like Nelson, the issue with smoking in public areas is second-hand smoke. It’s now the same concern Breckenridge has with electronic devices: While most devices produce vapor, not carcinogenic smoke, the second-hand effects are similar. In the council packet, town staff wrote there’s evidence to suggest “the use of electronic smoking devices … increases the exposure of bystanders to potentially harmful exhaled aerosol toxicants.”
At Empire Burger, one of Nelson’s Main Street restaurants, vaporizers and e-cigarettes have been banned from the beginning.
It’s a house rule, and he claims many of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association members have tackled indoor vaporizer smoke the same way.
Like traditional smokers, patrons have been courteous.
“Most restaurants realize that yes, vaporizers are different than a cigarette, but most other diners still don’t want the smoke,” Nelson said. “Our business is hospitality, and owners have responded in turn.”
Still, Nelson is curious how the proposed changes will affect nightclubs and bars. At Cecelia’s Martini Bar and Brooklyn’s Tavern and Billiards, both on Main Street, all indoor smoking is already banned. Employees at both establishments say people occasionally smoke e-cigarettes, but they’re typically from out of town and not familiar with local rules. When asked to stop, they don’t mind, employees say.
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