Fort Collins City Council discusses downtown smoking ordinance

Matthew Bailey

Public smoking ordinances in Fort Collins was perhaps one of the most argued issues covered during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, specifically the smoking ordinance in the downtown area.

The City Council meeting moved into public discussion during which policy project analyst Tyler Marr delivered a 15-minute staff presentation about city smoking ordinances in Fort Collins.

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Marr’s presentation largely dealt with making modifications to the current smoking ordinance that has been in place since 2016.

“There’s been several iterations of the City’s smoking ordinance dating back to the 1980s that have culminated in the existing smoking ordinance, which went into effect in 2016,” Marr said.

The current ordinance includes no smoking in downtown Fort Collins parks, natural areas, city buildings and at city-sponsored special events.

City Council requested a review of the ordinance back in August after hearing many concerns from residents and businesses alike.

Residents and businesses mainly asked for an exploration of non-criminal offenses, lifting the ordinance between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and analyzing potential designated smoking areas.

Marr argued that creating a seven-hour window for people to smoke freely would ultimately help police deal with more violent crimes such as bar or liquor fights instead of focusing on calls about smoking violations.

“Some of the concerns that council has heard are as follows: the first is simply that the downtown smoke-free zone is too big,” Marr said. “What was a three-to-five-minute smoke break has turned into a 10-to-15 affair for people working in the middle of the zone.”

Another major concern of the non-smoking ordinance in downtown Fort Collins is that there is no possible way to get everyone to follow it, especially visitors who do not know about the ordinance.

Marr also stated that the ordinance creates a competitive disadvantage for Old Town Fort Collins compared to other shopping areas. For example, the Foothills Mall and the Harmony Corridor do not have the same restrictions that downtown Fort Collins has, Marr said.

“We’ve heard that the penalty should not be criminal, and partly because the offense is criminal, the enforcement has damaged relationships with police and other city staff, such as code enforcement officers,” Marr said.

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In light of these concerns, Marr also recognized peoples’ concerns with keeping the ordinance in order to maintain the health and livability goals of Fort Collins.

Immediately following Marr’s presentation, six citizens raised their hands to comment on what he said.

One citizen, who identified themselves as a health educator, argued that the ordinance should be kept on behalf of the health and safety of Fort Collins youth, while another citizen said that the current ordinance should be stricter.

Most people seemed to be in favor of keeping and maintaining the current ordinance, and disagreed with Marr’s presentation.

“One of the many wonderful things that I’ve found since I moved to Fort Collins years ago was the smoke-free environment,” one citizen said. “That really wasn’t the case where I lived before where smoking was widespread. I realize how lucky we are here.”

 

Collegian reporter Matt Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @matnes1999.