Ban on smoking begins Friday

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The city of Steamboat Springs does not expect many fireworks when smoking is snuffed out in public places this weekend.

On Friday, the city's smoking ban goes into effect. The ban, which was passed by the City Council on May 17, prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, outdoor amphitheaters and workplaces.

City Public Safety Director J.D. Hays said the police department will not be patrolling for smoking-ban violations this weekend. Instead, the city hopes the public will help enforce the ban by telling smokers where they are not allowed to light up.

"Most people will reasonably comply, and those that don't will be the ones to end up dealing with us," Hays said. "We are not going to be the smoking Nazis."

Police Capt. Joel Rae said that if officers see someone smoking, they will inform them about the smoking ban and will not ticket them. Only those who refuse to comply with the ordinance will be ticketed.

"We are going to be pretty liberal in our approach, not too hard-handed about it, mostly giving warnings. It will be more of an education and information (process) for the first few weeks," Rae said.

The ordinance allows smoking in private residences and vehicles. Smoking is allowed in public parks, too, but smokers must be at least 25 feet from play-ground equipment. Smoking is not allowed near city ball fields, outdoor concerts and the rodeo grounds.

The smoking ban also requires smokers to stand at least 10 feet from entrances to smoke-free buildings.

"We are not going to walk around with tape measures," Rae said about that portion of the ordinance. "It is something if it is an obvious violation -- still from an education standpoint -- we would say please be 10 feet away from the main entrance."

Fines have not been set for smoking violations. City Clerk Julie Jordan said Municipal Court Judge Paul Sachs would assign a fine for violations. Until then, a violation of the smoking ordinance would be the same as other municipal code violations, with a fine ranging from zero to $999.

Jordan said the city has done a comprehensive education campaign in the past month, including radio and newspaper advertisements, letters to restaurant and bar owners and faxes to all businesses on the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's member list.

"We felt we took a proactive approach in all segments of the community," Jordan said.

The city also purchased 200 "Thank you for not smoking" signs that businesses can get for free. Under the city ordinance, all businesses must have signs that indicate the building is a nonsmoking area.

Jordan said that, in retrospect, the sign requirement seems a bit excessive, and the council will look at an amendment in the next month that would exempt it for businesses where smoking does not typically occur.

"We are trying to come up with a balance, because over a period of time, people will realize the community is a smoke-free environment," Jordan said. "There are typical places that you don't smoke, such as medical offices. For us to say no-smoking signs (should go there), may be a little (overboard)."

Jordan said the number of phone calls and e-mails she received from people supporting the smoking ordinance far outnumbered those who wanted the issue to be taken to the voters.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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