Committee urges City Council to adopt stronger no-smoking rules

LAKEWOOD – An advisory group appointed by the Mayor is urging City Council to revise the city’s smoking ordinance to eliminate some exceptions allowed under state law, enlarge the non-smoking areas at building entrances and prohibit smoking in outdoor areas of bars and restaurants before 9 p.m.

The Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Lakewood Smoking Ordinance delivered its seven-page final draft recommendations to City Council Monday along with three dissenting reports from committee members at odds with some of the recommendations.

“We had very unplugged discussions. They were unedited, everybody could say what they wanted to and no viewpoints were excluded,” said Ward 4 Councilman Tom Quinn. Quinn was chairman of the committee during its yearlong look at revising the existing ordinance, which was enacted in August 2009 to comply with the Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act of 2006.

If the committee’s recommendations survive a lengthy community “outreach and education” program and pass Council muster in coming months, they would take the city’s ordinance beyond the parameters of state law.

The committee recommends extending the state law’s smoking exclusion zone at public building entrances from 15 feet to 25 feet. The proposed ban on smoking in outdoor areas of bars and restaurants before 9 p.m. would be more strict than the state statute’s requirements, and the state law’s exceptions that allow smoking in tobacco-related “smoker-friendly businesses” including cigar and hookah bars would not be allowed in Lakewood.

Two of the dissenting reports came from healthcare professionals on the committee and each took issue with the committee’s proposed five-year phase-out of existing exceptions for cigar and hookah bars. If adopted by City Council, no new similar businesses could open in the city and those that are now operating would be forced to end smoking in the establishments within five years.

The five-year delay was a concern for committee members Jennifer Merriman, a nurse, and Walter “Snip” Young of Advanced Health Directions.

“This delay in implementation unduly leaves residents of Lakewood exposed to secondhand smoke for an exceptionally long period,” Young wrote in his dissenting letter, recommending instead a three- to six-month implementation period as “sufficient to notify customers and prepare the business environment for any physical or marketing changes that might be needed.”

Merriman concurred with Young’s position on the waiting period and pointed to a specific hookah bar near Alameda High School that she said “is focused on simulating a lounge atmosphere with enticing names for the ‘best tasting’ hookah in town.”

That message, she wrote in her letter, leads young people “to believe this is a safe alternative to cigarettes, which is so untrue….”

In a third letter of dissent, committee member Chad Hotchkiss, who operates Jose O’Shea’s and Chad’s Grill, said the outdoor smoking prohibition for restaurant and bar patios would send patrons of local establishments to eat and drink in nearby cities with less stringent rules.

“”We feel that any ordinance that creates an unfair balance of business from city to city … puts business in Lakewood at a disadvantage by loss in sales,” Hotchkiss wrote.

Hotchkiss also said the proposed expansion of the smoke-free areas at building entrances would be “unenforceable” and that the current 15-foot smoke-free zone is adequate if proposed signage is included in any revision of the ordinance.

Council is not expected to consider the recommended changes until late next year.
The draft report can be viewed on the city’s web site by clicking here.

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