The Fort Collins City Council should be applauded for its handling of the proposed ordinance created by Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Association.
The initial proposal was quite restrictive and would have, if passed, essentially banned smoking in all public places, like bars and restaurants.
The debate has been a hot topic for the city. Many people felt the initial proposal was an infringement on private business owners’ ability to decide how to run their business, and they thought the government has no right to regulate such things. Essentially now, it is the business owners’ right to decide whether smoking should be allowed in his or her establishment.
People who support the proposal said it is the right of non-smokers to not be exposed to potentially dangerous second-hand smoke, especially for workers who are exposed to toxic exhale while they work.
Both camps claimed personal freedoms and civil rights in this issue, and both were right in their claims. And this is where the council has served the people right thus far.
With such strong and divisive opinions, the council first sought public input. They handed out surveys asking locals for their opinions on the issues. The council even approached Associated Students of CSU to conduct surveys and collect student opinions on the issue.
Then the council made changes to the original proposal during the first debate Nov. 19 that show the divisiveness of the issue and the council’s resolve in making sure any ordinance passed would be fair to everyone.
Probably the most notable compromise was an amendment allowing businesses that rely on alcohol sales – those where 25 percent of sales come from alcohol – to still allow smoking. This is important because banning smoking may hurt the businesses.
Another compromise was allowing additional time for some businesses to comply with the new standards.
This sort of teamwork and compromising is what we should expect from our city government, and we appreciate the council’s careful handling of this hot button issue.
We should also note the ordinance only received preliminary proposal, and this ordinance is not law yet. The council plans to put the final vote on this issue Dec. 16, and many things could happen that might change the bill or kill it all together.
But so far, compromise and careful planning have been the theme and we hope to see more of the same if, or when, this ordinance becomes law.