Hayden law bolsters anti-smoking efforts

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— Battles in the nation's campaign against tobacco and cigarette smoking, in particular are being waged right here in Routt County.
First on the list of local efforts to curb adolescent smoking is a new law in Hayden that makes it illegal for minors to use, purchase or possess tobacco products.
Since the controversial measure went into effect on July 1, not a single ticket has been issued to an underage Hayden smoker for violating the ordinance.
Not everyone in Hayden is in favor of the ordinance, but Town Manager Rob Straebel said it seems to be working. At the very least, there are no signs of smoking litter in the town's parks.
The ordinance was passed in a Town Board 4-2 vote on June 1.
So far, there has been little or no discussion on similar ordinances in south Routt or Steamboat Springs.
Although federal law prohibits people under the age of 18 from purchasing tobacco, Colorado and local governments other than Hayden don't prohibit minors from using tobacco. That means retailers can be penalized for selling tobacco, and minors can be penalized for purchasing it, but not for using it.
Based on the results of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition activities, it seems the prohibition against selling tobacco products to minors is not always widely observed in Routt County.
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition in Steamboat Springs recently completed its annual educational "survey" in Steamboat and Hayden. To conduct the survey, two minors are sent out with law enforcement officers to back them, and the minors attempt to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products.
"Of 20 businesses visited in May and June, eight of them sold to minors," program manager Angie Pleshe said.
The survey is strictly educational, Pleshe said, so those businesses that sold tobacco to minors were given reminders and educational information from Grand Futures.
Plesh said part of the problem is that many clerks in this area are transients, and are not around long enough to be made aware of the tobacco sales laws.
In September, the Hayden schools will be participants in an American Lung Cancer teen smoking cessation program. The program will provide students who already smoke with incentives to help them quit. Hayden school district's Health Services Coordinator Mari Mahanna said she is not sure what those incentives will be yet.
The program, which will focus on peer counseling and training, will be available to south Routt and Steamboat Springs, should those schools express a need.
"We have a 'no tobacco policy' on our campus," Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cindy Simms said. "The kids understand it and it seems to work."
Currently all of the schools include anti-tobacco education in their health education programs, and use some of Grand Future's anti-tobacco presentations and materials in their programs.
Although Steamboat and south Routt school nurse Dot Haberlan could not say how much of a problem teen smoking is in Steamboat or Oak Creek, she did say the problem needs to be handled on a county-wide basis.
"We really need to look at the whole county, and not just individual schools," she said.

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