City Council ignored better smoking ban options

Jake Schwebach

Jake Schwebach
Jake Schwebach

Hit that cigarette while you still can.

An ordinance passed by Fort Collins City Council will extend the current smoking ban (including electronic cigarettes) to Old Town, public events, natural areas and parks/trails.

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The “Smoking Ordinance Expansion Options” was presented to council on Nov. 25, 2014 by Laurie Kadrich and Delynn Coldiron. In the section that applies to Old Town/Downtown, the Council had four options to choose from: A, B, C and D.

Option A would expand the complete ban to all of Old Town and adjacent streets.

Option B would impose the downtown ban from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m, when less children and elderly community members are present. The vast majority of smokers are 18-35 years old.

Option C would not expand the ban, but would increase education outreach and enforcement.

Option D would amend the restriction “to allow smoking within patios located away from public sidewalks,” such as elevated patios or back alleys.

The council chose “Option A.” Their decision jilted local business owners and smokers. The council, apart from lone objector Mayor Karen Weitkunat, decided that roughly one-fifth of the local population is unfit for public image.

Option D is the closest to designated smoking areas. Kadrich and Colidron received “36 business owners signing letters recommending (Option D), and over 500 signatures of support.” Event organizers gave support if  “designated smoking areas were allowed, so the smokers had a reasonable place to go.” Many community members questioned why designated smoking areas weren’t offered.

The wants of smokers and needs of business owners matter less to council than the city’s health-conscious personality. Old Town Square is about to undergo a $3 million face-liftincluding a new fountain and playground. Smoking may be unattractive, but so is being off-your-a** drunk in Old Town Square. Option would allow bar-crawlers to smoke when children and the elderly are sleeping.

I won’t pretend to have a good excuse to smoke cigarettes. They’re terrible for you – everyone knows that. If an educated smoker chooses to use anyway, let businesses profit, should it only harm the willing demographic.

This ban is subjective, unlike the 2003 indoor ban,which conformed to the Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act. Second-hand smoke is not a proven outdoor air pollutant. The public surveys conducted by the city aren’t substantial. The Collegian‘s Sean Kennedy suggested the ban be put to public vote.

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Proven ground-level ozone air pollutants like car exhaust, industrial pollution, gasoline fumes, chemical solvents and electric utilities have yet to see a similar ordinance. These toxins increase the risk of chronic health diseases for the majority of the population. The public survey said 67 percent of 102 respondents supported the proposed measures, but I doubt the majority of Fort Collins feels personally threatened by outdoor cigarette smoke.

It’s easy to pick on cigarettes because the toxins are visible. Most people increase their risk of chronic diseases later in life on a daily basis: the food we eat, exercise and sleep we don’t get and city air we breathe. Shouldn’t the focus of city council be on more immediate health risks, like car pollution and industrial waste? It’s the responsibility of educational groups to inform the public on lifestyle choices.

I don’t disagree with a ban. On the contrary, I think educated restriction like age are helpful. I disagree with this ban. Let’s be reasonable about Council’s desire to make smokers disappear.

The ordinance will be read again Nov. 9. It will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016. Outdoor smoking bans also passed in Boulder and Golden, Colorado.

Collegian Columnist Jake Schwebach can be reached at letters@collegian.com and on Twitter at @jschway