Nov 192002
Authors: Willow Welter

An ordinance that would prohibit smoking in specified public areas was given preliminary approval by a unanimous vote during the Fort Collins City Council meeting Tuesday night, but with several revised amendments.

The ordinance, created by the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Association, would ban smoking in all enclosed public places, in all places of employment and in certain unenclosed areas like sports arenas and golf courses beginning July 1, 2003.

In addition, the ordinance would prohibit people from smoking within a 20-foot perimeter of entrances, windows and ventilation systems of smoke-free areas.

Michelle Pawar from the Fort Collins Natural Resources Department and Carrie Diggett, the city attorney, presented this ordinance along with five amendments.

The Council spent hours revising these amendments to include details that were not included previously. They gave unanimous preliminary approval to the following revised amendments:

* Amendment No. 1 would allow smoking in unenclosed areas, except the 20-foot perimeters outside of non-smoking facilities.

* Amendment No. 2 would allow smoking in certain types of establishments. These include “freestanding bars,” which are those who receive more than 25 percent of sales from alcohol, as well as bingo parlors.

* Amendment No. 3 would allow designated smoking areas in certain types of establishments, like “attached bars.” These would include the bars within restaurants and hotels. The Council voted to only allow smoking in attached bars of bowling alleys.

* Amendment No. 4 would phase in the new requirements for one year after the adoption of the new smoking restrictions.

* Amendment No. 5 would allow additional time for businesses to comply with the ordinance, based on business hardship.

“I think we’ve crafted something that is fair and easy to support,” said Karen Weitkunat, a council member.

These final revised amendments resulted from much debate among both council members and citizens.

“Are we trying to create rights for those who want a clean bill of health, or are we fighting for the rights of addicts?” Mayor Ray Martinez posed.

Council Member Marty Tharp supported the ordinance, but only after the revisions. She feared the original proposal was too restrictive.

“I’m concerned about the pervasiveness of this ordinance,” Tharp said. “I would suggest that we are being rather heavy-handed, and I want there to be some area of compromise for people who smoke.”

Fort Collins citizens poured into the city council chambers, filling every chair, including extra ones that had been added in anticipation of a large crowd, and standing against the walls.

During the designated time for citizen participation, 52 members of the Fort Collins public spoke for up to two minutes each.

Thirty-four of those who spoke supported the ordinance fully, nearly half of them doctors or healthcare employees who each cited statistics and research about how cigarette smoke is unhealthy.

Other citizens supporting the smoking ordinance gave personal accounts of family members dying from smoke-related diseases.

“I don’t believe any of the amendments should be allowed,” expressed Britt Farnsworth, graduate school senator from the Associated Students of CSU. “Employees have to be exposed to toxins in the work environment every day.”

The senator of ASCSU also noted she believes CSU student health would improve with the adoption of the smoking ordinance. In addition, she added other ways she considered students would benefit from the plan.

“They’ll have clothes that smell clean and feel better when they leave the bars,” Farnsworth said.

Five of the citizens who spoke at the meeting supported the ordinance, but only when applied with the proposed amendments. All five of these speakers were small business owners who addressed the possibility of negative impacts on their businesses resulting from the ordinance.

Eight of the remaining citizens who spoke at the meeting expressed complete opposition to the smoking ordinance. Some of them stressed personal freedom and choice while others said the ordinance would make smokers feel like outcasts.

“I’m a non-smoker who hates smoke,” said Craig Latzke, a network engineer who opposed the ordinance. “But I feel this amendment is an infringement on our personal liberties.”

Mary Tate-Romero, another citizen opposed to the ordinance, agreed with Latzke.

“I think it’s another right taken away from us as Americans,” Tate-Romero insisted. “It’s dangerous when a group of people gets together and decides what we should or shouldn’t do. This is still America, isn’t it?”

The second reading will include the revised language and amendments the council has fashioned and may be passed at the Dec. 17 Council meeting.

Other city council business:

* The Council also gave final approval to the 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. closure of Old Town Plaza. The vote was 5-2.

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