Editorial: Ban smoking in downtown Glenwood — now | PostIndependent.com

Editorial: Ban smoking in downtown Glenwood — now

The Glenwood Springs City Council has a lot on its plate. It always will.

It must hire a permanent city manager, must address a couple of critical issues related to the Grand Avenue bridge project, should find a way to boost attainable housing and faces a long list of other key matters, from renewal of the Acquisitions & Improvements sales tax to several transportation projects.

None of that should stop it from making a straightforward move that helps downtown merchants, promotes health and enhances Glenwood’s brand and ambiance as a family-friendly tourist destination: Ban smoking in the downtown core.

This idea emerged nearly a year ago, arising in part from last summer’s struggle with rising vagrancy and aggressive panhandling. The Post Independent first called for the ban on June 1, 2015, as the council began grappling with a revision of marijuana regulations.

A few weeks later, council directed staff to draft an ordinance, perhaps patterned after similar regulations in Boulder and Fort Collins.

Now, a few weeks before summer tourists begin to arrive, some of whom may well be shocked at the extent of construction impact from the early stages of the bridge project, the council is yet to take up the question again.

This suggestion is not as momentous as the need to complete negotiations with Union Pacific and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on permanently connecting Eighth Street to Midland Avenue, a linchpin for later developing the valuable and promising area around the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

And, to be sure, a minority of residents and businesses, probably mostly taverns, will object to the ban.

But this also is not an expensive or time-consuming change that requires infrastructure spending beyond signs or environmental assessments. (Environmental impact statement: Cigarette smoke is bad for everyone.)

The public good substantially outweighs objections. Here are four strong positives:

• Smoking harms Glenwood’s family-friendly tourism brand. This issue is more acute now than it was a year ago. With some sidewalks constricted by construction, pedestrians could have fewer options to avoid walking through clouds of smoke in the core downtown area this summer.

• Banning smoking in the downtown area would generate publicity for Glenwood around the state that might make our town more appealing to some visitors, helping offset disruption from the bridge project. It’s a progressive, pro-tourist, pro-health, pro-business move.

• It gives police a tool to enforce the law against public marijuana consumption because pot smokers won’t be able to light a cigarette to effectively cover their pot smoke. If the cops assigned to walk downtown see smoke, they have reason to approach the person or group.

• In a time when many people are concerned about the message legal marijuana sends children, we can say that it’s illegal in downtown Glenwood Springs to use any addictive or mind-altering substance in public, which is already the case with alcohol and marijuana, but not tobacco. Let’s make it illegal to expose any of our residents, workers and visitors to harmful secondhand smoke.

The ordinance would give merchants a new authority to shoo puffers away from their doors. The current rule barring smoking within 15 feet of a workplace entrance (which isn’t enforced) would be scrapped for a clearer standard: It’s just illegal to smoke in this area. Period.

The ban would combat the unsavory behavior that troubled so many people in town last summer. If the cops write a few tickets and are on foot to scold people who light up, it will make a difference.

Council can and should do this quickly. Yes, the move would generate some grumbling, but a majority of people anywhere don’t smoke and don’t like dealing with other people’s smoke. This ordinance would support local businesses at a time when they need it.

Perhaps councilors could allow smoking outside bars after, say, 11:30 p.m. — provided bar owners clean up discarded cigarette butts before workers go home at night. Perhaps it could allow downtown workers to smoke in alleys during the day if they stay more than 50 feet away from streets or the library plaza.

Perhaps. But this is not rocket surgery.

Snuff smoking in the core tourist area along Sixth Street, around the Hot Springs, on the pedestrian bridge for goodness’ sakes, and from Colorado Avenue to Cooper Avenue south to 10th Street, including in Centennial Park.

See how that goes. We may like it so much that the ban would be extended next year to all city parks and the Rio Grande Trail.

Don’t wring your hands, council. Take this step toward a cleaner, more inviting town. Now.

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