Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.
The smoking ban imposed by the City of Fort Collins needs to be revised. The policy was originally put in place in October of 2003, but has since caused issues in the Old Town area.
The smoke-free ban has gone through progressive changes since being put in place fourteen years ago. In 2015 the policy changed from no smoking indoors, to encompassing any park in Fort Collins including all running trails and other natural areas. In 2016 the ban was given a larger territory and now includes parts of Old Town and city-approved events.
Issues related to the smoking policy largely rose when the ban grew to cover parts of Old Town, especially Old Town Square. According to Delynn Coldiron, interim city clerk, business owners have been complaining about the encroaching smoke-free zones.
Some businesses fear that they may be at the short end of the stick when it comes to competing with establishments elsewhere in Fort Collins that are not affected by the ban. For example: there are no smoking restrictions in Mid-Town, and bar patrons may choose to spend their money there as opposed to in Old Town. Others are finding it difficult to send their workers on smoke breaks without wasting the time to get to an acceptable smoking area, only to waste more time getting back to the workplace.
Not only are businesses feeling uneasy about restricted smoking in Old Town, but so are the surrounding neighborhoods. Smokers who actually obey the no-smoking laws move outside of the marked zones and congregate in places where smoking was never an issue before. Not only that, but the immobility of the homeless in Old Town makes it difficult for them to follow smoking laws.
Those who choose to smoke within the banned zones run the risk of receiving up to a $1,000 fine and a mandatory court appearance; a punishment that is far too dramatic for lighting up a cigarette. Failure to appear at that court session could lead to arrest, which actually happened to two smokers who neglected to show up to their court dates.
Where can one smoke near downtown Fort Collins without risking a citation?
The border of the non-smoking zone ends around Olive, Mason, Jefferson, and Mathews streets. Furthermore, smokers may light up in their own private residences and closed vehicles within the banned smoking zones.
Smoking related policies are not new in regards to the City of Fort Collins. In 2003 when the city passed its original smoking regulations, smoking was banned in establishments such as bars, restaurants, and any other indoor public space. However, one of the more notable restrictions was the ban on smoking within a 20-foot perimeter outside of any public entrance, window, or dining area. Now, smoking is unlawful at all times in Old Town.
The wide understanding that cigarettes are unhealthy makes it seem more feasible to put a smoking ban in place. They not only affect the smoker’s health but as well as the people around them. Moreover, cigarette butts are religiously littered.
On the other hand, many businesses open late at night in Old Town have a large audience of smokers; which is why a compromise to the current smoking policy makes sense.
City officials have rumored about setting designated hours in place that would allow smokers to indulge. Officials are also scoping out specific zones that smoking would be allowed during those designated times, and are considering placing one directly in Old Town Square. It is compromise such as this that might levy some of the issues related to the smoking restrictions set in place by the City of Fort Collins.
Spencer Reed can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @sbreed96