Smoking ban

The Durango City Council is apparently about to adopt a public smoking ban. This can be argued several ways, pro and con, but in no conceivable construction does it make sense to ban smoking in almost all public areas but exempt Hillcrest Golf Course.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking in public places such as bus stops and the Animas River Trail. Sidewalks would not be included, but the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act already bans smoking within 15 feet of a business entrance, which effectively bans smoking on much of the sidewalk area in the Central Business District.

Beyond that, though, the ban extends to all property owned or operated by the city of Durango – except for Hillcrest Golf Course and an exemption for Native American religious ceremonies. That last seems reasonable in terms of respect for religious liberty and Native American culture, and is, in any case, such a rarity as to be statistically meaningless.

But why exempt Hillcrest? If the ban is meant to foster public health and eliminate second-hand smoke, why not protect golfers as well? If it is about nonsmokers’ rights, what about the workers and others at the golf course? If the ban is not about secondhand smoke, but, instead, about setting a good example, as Mayor Doug Lyon has suggested, who better to set such an example than the patrons of Hillcrest?

One could certainly make the argument that the smoking ban is intrusive, heavy-handed, nanny-state government. But again, if that is true for Hillcrest, is it not true for parks as well?

Something similar came up earlier in that the smoking ban in its original form would have extended the ban to the outdoor patios of bars and restaurants. The council dropped that part after the owners of those businesses objected.

But there is logic to that exemption in that those examples are open-air facilities and private property. Nobody has to go there and with smoking becoming increasingly unpopular market pressures may soon address any remaining eateries that allow smoking. The basis for that exemption seems weak, but there is an argument to be made for it.

Hillcrest, however, is city property, just as much as the River Trail, Chapman Hill or the Dog Park. Why should it be exempt?

Not including Hillcrest Golf Course in the smoking ban smacks of elitism and privilege. It makes a mockery of the whole idea.

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