From Darkness To Light

17 Mar 2012

Group’s ordinance would ban smoking in Horse Gulch, parks, etc.

Posted by Adam Howell

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A proposal to ban smoking on Durango’s open-space lands proposed by the Lasso Tobacco Coalition met opposition from the City’s Natural Lands and Preservation Advisory Board Monday. 

Choked by a sense of personal intrusion and the inability of the City to enforce the proposed smoking ban on City open-space lands, the Board collectively argued against it. Together they asked Board member and City Council Member Dick White to voice disagreement with it at the Council’s study session on April 10, 2012.

In addition to banning smoking on open-space lands, the ordinance as written would also ban smoking at bus stops, restaurant patios, hookah bars or lounges, parks, playgrounds, recreational areas and sports arenas.

The ordinance would also give the City manager unrestricted authority to impose further smoking restrictions on other City properties or facilities.

Lasso Tobacco Coalition’s Prevention Specialist Teal Stetson-Lee said that similar ordinances have been passed in Arvada, Greeley and Eagle County, while 17 other counties are currently considering the adoption of similar ordinances.

Funded by state tobacco tax dollars, the Lasso Tobacco Coalition drafted the ordinance, which could punish violators with “a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for a first violation within a calendar year, a fine not to exceed two hundred dollars ($200) within a calendar year, and a fine not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300) for each additional violation within a calendar year.”

While police officers or other law enforcement do not currently patrol City open space, the inability of the City to enforce the ordinance was questioned by the Board Member and City Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Metz.


Website for Lasso Tobacco Coalition:


With the goal of creating a new, positive community norm, the coalition intends for the ordinance to encourage self-policing as a method of enforcement, according to Stetson-Lee.

Similar to the enforcement of littering laws, the Coalition hopes social pressures and change stemming from the proposed ordinance would make smoking more of an unaccepted social norm, Stetson-Lee said.

Board member Mark Smith is concerned with the power that the ordinance would give the city to control personal decisions and lifestyle choices.

“We basically would be saying yes to an ordinance that said ‘you can’t smoke in Durango unless you are on your own property. And you certainly can’t smoke in the open spaces,’” said Smith.

“What if you couldn’t go there if you had a red shirt on,” Smith asked. “It seems like it’s intrusive to me.”

“Open space to me seems to be the most unusual part of this ordinance. I can understand it next to a door, or any of the places where people are congregating. But when you’re out in the open in an area where we’re trying to encourage people to utilize. Then infringing on people’s rights to enjoyment of that in certain ways. It seems that’s almost like saying well we want the open space, but we don’t want people to go there, or we don’t want people to go there if they’re smoking. Or we don’t want people to talk above a certain decibel level there,” Smith said. “I think it is our business when it comes to the open space.”

Smoking is bad, ummkay. Endulge on this picture of where it wold be banned in Horse Gulch. Picture taken 3/16/2012.

Sharing a similar concern, Board member Steve Whiteman basically said that if individuals are smoking by themselves in a remote area that they are not affecting the health of other people.

“It’s really overreaching to say that there’s a public health issue with smoking if you’re in Overend Mountain Park or up on the top of Raider Ridge,” said Whiteman.

“It doesn’t make sense to include natural lands in this, it’s overreaching,” he said.

Board member Connie Imig noticed a common theme in how other members of the Board were arguing against the proposal.

“Well it sounds like we’re all saying the same thing,” said Imig.

Board Member Kim Fluty finished the conclusion for her.

“That it shouldn’t include City Open Spaces,” replied Fluty.

Given the chance to respond to these dissenters, Lasso Tobacco Coalition’s Prevention Specialist Teal Stetson-Lee said that the Coalition has an underlying, less-obvious goal for it’s proposed smoking ban.

“This isn’t about targeting smokers, or targeting their habits,” she said. “This is a fight against the tobacco industry. It’s not a fight against individuals or individual rights. The tobacco industry is the one that profits off of smoking and getting people addicted and allowing for loose policies that make it more easy for people to get access to tobacco products and continue to use them.”

“All of this policy work is about limiting their power,” said Stetson-Lee.

“For people to say that what we’re doing is an infringement on their rights, I find to be kind of ironic. Because I think it’s getting away from looking at who the bad guys really are in this scenario,” Stetson-Lee said. “We’re not the ones who are killing people on a daily basis, and spending literally a million dollars an hour on advertising that targets youth.”

“Our perspective is very much about what can we do to help people,” Stetson-Lee said. “What can we do to protect them? What can we do to keep youth from being exposed and getting addicted? And falling into the tyranny of the tobacco industry?”

If you want to write or voice your opinion about the proposed ordinance to ban smoking on Durango’s open-space lands, etc., tell the Durango City Council. They will be debating and possibly voting on it. Go to the Durango City Council’s website for contact information.

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