Others looking at Hayden smoking law | SteamboatToday.com
Danie Harrelson

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Others looking at Hayden smoking law

— Hayden’s success with curbing smoking among its youth has inspired some neighboring communities to follow its lead.

Mayor Chuck Grobe and School Resource Officer Gordon Booco recently visited representatives from the towns of Meeker and Rangely and Rio Blanco County to share how Hayden adopted and continues to effectively enforce its smoking ordinance.

“We wanted to help them get over some of the hurdles that we faced,” Grobe said.

The Hayden Town Board passed the ordinance in June 2000 to deter teen-agers from smoking in public.

Anyone younger than the age of 18 caught smoking must pay a $35 fine, write a 500-page essay and attend smoking cessation classes.

Because the communities of Meeker and Rangely comprise the entire county of Rio Blanco, they are looking to Hayden’s ordinance for guidance in crafting a countywide ordinance, Build a Generation coordinator Dondi Glasscock said.

Build a Generation received some Title V funding that depends on Meeker adopting a smoking ordinance that targets teen-agers, so Glasscock said she wanted to learn about the path Hayden took to getting its smoking ordinance in place.

“We’ve been toying with this ordinance since July,” she said. “We have come to a crossroads as far as we’re going to do this or we’re not.”

Glasscock joined a committee of Meeker and Rangely police, the Rio Blanco sheriff, Meeker Town Board members and several people in health and human services in listening to Grobe and Booco.

About 13 communities in the state enforce their own version of a smoking ordinance for their youth, but Hayden’s demographics provided the best example, Glasscock said.

“We were very impressed with what Hayden has done to lessen the effects of older students smoking in very visible places for kids to see,” she said. “We felt we had a lot in common with them.”

Rio Blanco County hopes to enact a smoking ordinance that must be followed by both Meeker and Rangely communities by early January, she added.

Meeker’s headaches with teen smoking mirror Hayden’s a few years ago, Grobe said. Meeker parents complain of driving their children to school in clear view of high school students with cigarettes in hand.

Enacting the ordinance, however, is not a cure-all for smoking among youth, but a means to deter children from picking up the habit, he said.

“Realizing that we couldn’t stop smoking, we wanted to see how we could minimize the effect of older kids smoking around younger kids,” Grobe said. “The younger kids are looking around and seeing the older kids doing it, and then they think it’s OK.”

When the ordinance first passed, Hayden officers extended a 30-day grace period to the young offenders, Booco said.

But Hayden police later stopped handing out warnings and gave real fines, he said.

“We went to a zero-tolerance policy because we realized it had to be all or nothing for these kids,” he said.

Booco suggested that people need only look at downtown areas, city parks and school property to notice the difference.

The vandalism and littering once common with popular smoking areas subsided as teen-agers realized they would have to pay a price for smoking in public areas, he said.

“We wanted to take it out of the public eye,” Booco said.

When the idea of an ordinance first surfaced, he said, some people expressed concern that law enforcement would abuse the right to ticket minors.

Hayden police have shown great discretion in enforcing the ordinance, he added.

“We don’t chase them down, or wait for them in the shadows,” Booco said. “But if they are under 18 and smoking in public, they will have to face the consequences.”