Sep 292002
Authors: Erica Mirehouse

Another meeting will be required before a decision will be made by the City Council as to whether or not Fort Collins will be smoke-free.

The City Council held a work session on Tuesday to consider a possible ordinance that could ban smoking in city restaurants and bars. The work session met in response to bar and restaurant owners request to find a compromise on the smoking ban.

The basis for the new ordinance is the Air Quality Action Plan (2002-2003), which is to increase the percentage of residents and workplaces taking action to reduce exposure to air pollution.

“Our goal is to reduce the amount of smoking in public places,” said District 5 Council member Marty Tharp.

The current “Smoking in Public Places” code will serve as the baseline for the other options that the City Council has to consider. Under this code, there are designated smoking areas in restaurants, smoke-free public places, and smoking is allowed in bars/taverns and in bingo and bowling.

“There is no real debate on this. Tobacco smoke is a problem, both primary tobacco smoke and environmental or secondhand smoke,” said Greg Byrne, the Director of Community Planning and Environmental Services. “However, what needs to be determined is whether or not the existing ordinance should be revised.”

There are four options to be considered. The first option is the “Statistically valid survey says.” Under this code, there would be smoke-free restaurants, designated smoking in bars/taverns, smoke-free bingo and bowling, and a smoke-free distance in front of entrances of less than 20 feet. This would require both enforcement and education.

The second option is the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance (CTPA) model code. This would enforce smoke-free restaurants, smoke-free bars/taverns, smoke-free bingo and bowling, and a smoke-free distance of 20 feet in front of entrances and perimeters. This approach would require dedicated enforcement.

The third option is the Null Alternative, under which no changes would be made to the current “Smoking in Public Places” code.

The fourth option is the Cap and Trade Market Approach, a conceptual city model that would provide a market-driven transitional quota system. It was inspired by a citizen suggestion during the community outreach process. This approach would allow smoke-free restaurants and bars to be phased in over a period of time.

“The Cap and Trade Market Approach is innovative,” said Director of Natural Resources, Michelle Pawar. “It truly reflects the different interests that we have heard from the community.”

The outreach process to gauge citizens’ interest and education on the topic of second-hand smoke and related health impacts began in 2000-2001. This process continued with a summer public outreach to the community to provide input on the possibility of a smoke-free policy.

The community outreach process consisted of a survey, questionnaires, special group meetings and dialogues on television.

The Vantage Marketing and Research group conducted a random phone survey of 400 households with diverse zip codes to gauge and measure support and opposition to the proposed policy.

Eighty-six percent of those polled would be in support of the current smoking regulations.

“I kept hearing that the majority want tighter smoking regulations and then when you look at the survey, it says that really the majority want the current regulations,” said Mayor Ray Martinez.

State policy already prohibits smoking indoors and in all residence halls at CSU. Carrie Muchow, a junior psychology major is in favor of prohibiting smoking in restaurants as well.

“I am a hostess at the Rio (Grande) and I think that the smoking ban would be great for restaurants,” Muchow said. “People always come in and ask to sit as far away from the smoking section as possible.”

“I think that we would improve customer satisfaction because overall, people do not want to smell smoke while they are eating,” she said. However, Muchow is not in favor of banning smoking in bars.

“There should definitely be some exemptions. People should be able to smoke socially in a bar environment,” she said.

The City Council meeting ended with three council members in favor of the CTEPA model code, one in favor of Cap and Trade, one in favor of the Null Alternative, and one undecided.

-Edited by Ben Koerselman and Becky Waddingham

Council member views on proposed smoking ordinance changes:

David Roy, district 6: “I support a 100 percent ban. I believe that in our hearts of hearts there is no good in smoking, it is nothing but harmful. There may be periphery concerns to certain segments of our community but we have to look at this issue solely as a health and safety issue.”

Karen Weitkunat, district 2: “I think that with a 100 percent ban we are moving into the rights of individuals, rights of businesses, and rights of private citizens. The Cap and Trade approach is a fair and just proposal that would meet the goal of 100% ban justly working with businesses to phase it out.”

Kurt Kastein, district 4: “I don’t support stricter smoking regulations, favoring the null alternative. I am a personal responsibility guy, I believe strongly in that concept. I do know that second-hand smoke is bad for you, I detest cigarette smoke, and I don’t do it. But, I believe that it is the responsibility of the people to step up and say to other people who can affect change, hey let’s do something different here.”

Eric Hamrick, district 3: “Employee protection and health and safety are the issues here. This is a college town. College students flock to the bars, which are all/mostly smoking. They should have the right to recreate in a healthy environment. We shouldn’t sacrifice the health of future generations on the alter of economic opportunity and future city business.”

Marty Tharp, district 5: “We need to look at choice. We are personally responsible for where we go and what we do; people can choose not to go to a smoky bar. I really think that it should be market driven, let the market work, and you will make the choice. If you don’t go there and their business drops, they will make the change themselves.”

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