Thank you for not smoking?

Proposal would ban habit in most public outdoor areas

Durango City Council is studying an ordinance that would ban cigarette smoking in most public outdoor areas, including the Animas River Trail. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Durango City Council is studying an ordinance that would ban cigarette smoking in most public outdoor areas, including the Animas River Trail.

Puffing a cigarette on the Animas River Trail or at a restaurant and bar patio could soon be punishable by up to a $100 fine for a first-time offense and fines of $200 to $300 for additional violations within the same year.

Durango City Council on Oct. 2 will schedule a public hearing for a proposed smoking ordinance that would prohibit smoking at most public outdoor areas such as bus stops, the river trail, ball fields, playgrounds, picnic pavilions and other city recreation areas.

It also would restrict smoking at enclosed and open-air patios of businesses and any hookah bar where water pipes are smoked.

The city manager would also be given additional authority to impose further smoking restrictions on any city-owned property.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc promised not “to go crazy” under the proposed ordinance advocated by the anti-smoking group Lasso Tobacco Coalition, and the San Juan Basin Health Department, but Councilor Paul Broderick thought the proposal was “harsh,” especially for unaware tourists and out-of-towners.

“Welcome to Durango, here’s a $100 fine,” Broderick said at a study session on Tuesday.

Councilor Sweetie Marbury supported the proposal, arguing that it was good to have standards.

“It speaks highly of our community,” she said.

“Reasonable people will abide by the law. It’s an OK thing to have standards,” she said, noting that Texas imposes $1,000 fines for littering on the highway.

Patricia Senecal, the health policy and systems director for the San Juan Basin Health Department, said young people have been very supportive of banning smoking at restaurant patios because they want to eat “without somebody blowing smoke” in their face.

Senecal also argued that workers, such as servers and bartenders, need to be protected from secondhand smoke, too.

Teal Stetson-Lee from the Lasso Tobacco Coalition said their objective was not to trample on the rights of smokers, but to go after the tobacco industry.

Revenue generated by the fines would be earmarked for anti-smoking and cessation efforts because Senecal said the health departments gets many calls from smokers who want help quitting the habit.

LeBlanc clarified that enforcement will be on a complaint basis only.

“We won’t have a smoking patrol,” he said.

Officials also acknowledged that teenage smoking is prevalent on the section of the Animas River Trail behind the Durango High School.

The ban will be supported with signs, including a playground sign that reads: “Young lungs at play.”

Marbury said the public signs would be helpful in confronting a smoker in a public space.

Without the sign, “I’m just a grouchy grandmother,” she said.

Exceptions to the ban would be made for private homes, entranceways for treatment centers of nicotine addiction, retail tobacco businesses and city-owned open spaces and natural lands such as Horse Gulch.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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