Ban leaves smokers fuming

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— On Thursday night, Joe Mansfield had a list of 11 bars and enough cigarettes to smoke one at each of them.

On the day before the city's smoking ban went into effect, Mansfield was a man on mission as he spoke about his anger toward the Steamboat Springs City Council for not taking the smoking ban to a vote.

He rattled off the names of restaurants and bars that, until July 1, allowed smoking. He planned to visit all of them that night for one last smoke.

"I hate my City Council. I hate their decision. Their decision was horrible," Mansfield said as he smoked a cigarette at his second stop, the Golden Cue.

Inside the bar and pool hall in Dream Island Plaza, Mansfield was preaching to the choir. Most of those sitting at the bar early Thursday evening were smokers, and they were happy to share their unhappiness about the new city ordinance.

"Plenty of businesses have nonsmoking. They can find them and go to them," Golden Cue regular Ann Evanoff said. "But to say everybody has to do what one person said, that is communism. That is not right. My freedoms have been taken away, my freedom to choose my pursuit of happiness."

The next day, on the other side of town, a very different kind of gathering took place.

On Friday afternoon at Slopeside Grill, SmokeFree Steamboat, the grass-roots group that brought the ordinance to the council, was celebrating the passage of the smoking ban. Over salads and sandwich wraps, they talked about where they would go this weekend without being bothered by smoke.

Judy Hiester, Tobacco Prevention Program coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said her family was going to the bowling alley.

"Not only does the ordinance support public health, it also is very cost-effective in terms of health care. It is a very positive step to take," she said. "It saves a lot of dollars and a lot of heartache."

Sam Robards, whose lungs were punctured during the Vietnam War and who has trouble going to the Veterans of Foreign Wars because of the smoke he inhales, said he would be headed to the Golden Cue on Friday night.

He already had spray painted two red dots outside the bar, which indicated the 10-feet mark from the entrance of the bar -- the distance from the building that smokers now must stand to light up.

Sandy Visnack with Grand Futures Prevention Council said she has not been to Slopeside since she was pregnant, for fear of inhaling the harmful second-hand smoke.

With her 15-month-old daughter beside her, Visnack said the smoking ban would be a good influence on children.

"Passing ordinances and doing legislation are strategies in prevention, and I think this sends a great healthy community message to our youth in the community," Visnack said.

On May 17, the City Council passed the smoking ordinance, prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces. The council set July 1 as the day the ordinance would take effect.

Tom Armstrong struck out at the city before the smoking ban was in place. Armstrong, who owns Mountain Paints, stopped selling paint to the city because of the ban.

He admitted his stand won't have much of an effect on him or the city, which used his paint in its public works and parks and recreation departments.

But Armstrong, a smoker who allows smoking in his shop but not in his store, said it is his right as a business and property owner that is being violated.

"I don't want a no-smoking sign on my door. I want a 'no City Council' sign," he said.

The new ordinance prohibits smoking in all places of employment, but Armstrong said those decisions should be his to make as a small-business owner. He has between four and six employees.

"What I do in my place is my business," he said.

But a bartender at Slopeside, Anders Anderson, said all the cigarette smoke he inhaled during his shifts compromised his health. The worst was Sundays, when a crowd of patrons would camp out at the bar, watch the ballgames and smoke. It was known as Smoky Sunday.

Anderson and co-worker Lisa Idzahl contacted Hiester to start the SmokeFree coalition.

When Anderson goes back to work at Slopeside next fall, he looks forward to not inhaling one to three packs of cigarettes each shift, as statistics indicate most restaurant workers do in smoking areas.

"It is a great relief," Anderson said. "I never smoked actively and I don't want to."

But not all Steamboat bartenders agree.

Georgia Harms, a bartender at the Golden Cue, is resentful of her new role as part enforcer and part sympathizer.

As a smoker, Harms said she is empathetic toward those who want to light up in the bar, but she also is the one expected to tell patrons that they can't smoke.

"A lot of people are going to boycott here for awhile," she said.

She also is afraid the bar will lose business once it stops allowing smoking. She said she probably would go home after her shift to smoke a cigarette and have a drink instead of visiting friends at the bar.

"It very much worries me as a bartender. It is going to hurt me and it is going to hurt the people following me because I am not going to stay here and drink a couple of drinks," Harms said.

Jeff Taylor, a bouncer at Lupos who smokes, predicted on Thursday night that there could be problems with the litter and loitering when smokers leave the bar and smoke 10 feet from the entrance. But he also said it could attract more people to the bars because it appeals to nonsmokers who don't want the itchy eyes and smelly clothes of a smoky bar.

Just inside the door Thursday night, a group of 20-somethings were playing pool and getting in their last cigarettes before the ordinance went into effect.

"Get it all in while you can," Eric Seams said. "I don't like (the ordinance). Most of the people who come in here smoke."

The following night, Lupos bouncer John Thormgrea sat at the door and watched as smokers stood outside on the deck, on the far side of bright white line.

He called the ordinance a "complete nuisance," noting he had to re-card smokers every time they left for a cigarette and then came back into the bar. He also worried that so many people outside could lead to fighting and noise that would bother those sleeping in Torian Plum Plaza across the street.

And because the smoking is off the premise of the bar, Thormgrea said, he was unsure about who should break up the fight if there was one.

Such issues might be addressed in the future. Even before the ordinance went into effect, the City Council said it would look at amending it. At the request of restaurant owners, the council will consider allowing restaurants or bars to designate an outdoor area for smoking.

More than 20 restaurant owners signed a petition saying they were in support of an amendment that would allow an establishment to permit smoking in an outdoor area and within the establishment's liquor license boundary. The council will look at the amendment July 19.

The SmokeFree Steamboat group does not support the proposed amendment, saying the smoke still could be harmful to the public.

"Our effort was always about protecting the health of the public and the health of the workers, and we think the best way to do that is too leave the ordinance as it stands," Hiester said. "Wherever you can smell smoke, you are inhaling carcinogens. That is harmful to everyone's health."


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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