Smoke a cigarette in a city park, trail, or open public space, and you might now face a serious fine or jail time.
On Sept. 24, the Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-3 to pass a law that bans smoking from the city’s public parks, trails, and open areas. Colorado Springs is now the 1,883th city nationwide to pass such an ordinance, which enables Colorado Springs police offers to fine park-goers up to $500 for lighting up on public premises.
To further deter smoking, park officials are prepared to spend somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000 on no-smoking signs and an integrated educational campaign aimed at informing the public about the law.
Even though the law successfully passed through City Council, the Colorado Springs Police Department has repeatedly assured uneasy smokers that the law will rarely be enforced, if at all.
Colorado College Political Science Professor Bob Loevy calls this “light enforcement.”
“There might be some citizen enforcement, which will have at least some effect,” Loevy said.
Though many citizens were pleased by City Council’s decision, which was aimed at both mitigating health risks and reducing the chances of another wildfire, there is also a large group that believes the City Council has overstepped their bounds.
One such citizen is Manuel Quintel, a Colorado Springs resident who believes the new ban is suppressing his right as an American.
Mr. Quintel spoke on KKTV in response to the smoking ban, saying, “I mean, they’re just taking more and more things away from us… If someone wants to smoke a cigarette, let them smoke a cigarette.”
Manuel Quintel isn’t alone in protesting the ban. Despite the numerous claims debating the legality of the City Council’s ruling, Professor Loevy believes that any legal action would prove fruitless.
“Everyone thinks the Constitution protects what they do,” he said.
Kurt Schroeder, the Colorado Springs’ Park Operations and Development Manager, assured that the City Council had taken citizens’ rights into account before taking the final vote.
“There were Council members concerned about personal rights,” he said. “We made accommodations.”
Schroeder explained that there is “a bigger picture here.”
Among these accommodations is what Mr. Schroeder calls a “designated smoking area,” or the portion of every park that will be marked and unregulated as to not impede any personal freedoms.
For the City Council, Mr. Schroeder says the goal “is not to remove [cigarettes], but control where they are.”
While the smoking ban may seem draconian to a few of Colorado Springs’ more conservative characters, it is quite tame in comparison to a similar law passed in Boulder earlier this year.
The law, which prohibits smoking in and around Boulder’s popular Pearl Street Mall, was first enforced in April and has since seen 35 tickets, each around $500, written by police officers.
Even juxtaposed with Boulder’s far stricter law, some have been left wary of the Colorado Springs’ law’s true intentions.
Though it has gone unmentioned by many, Professor Loevy believes the law may be aimed specifically at tackling the far more publicized issue of homelessness in the city’s downtown area.
When asked about any hidden agendas, Kurt Schroeder was adamant that the main objectives of the bill were to stop “unintentional fires” and “to reduce the effects of second-hand smoke, particularly to children.”
Regarding what impact the bill would have on the homeless, he concluded, “I can’t imagine it would have any effect… You can’t smoke in bars and they still go there.”
Colorado College officials have even flirted with the idea of a smoking ban on campus in the past, and administrators say such a ban isn’t out of the question.
“I’m sure a number of individuals would be behind it,” Bob Loevy insisted. “As long as there is a place to go and smoke, it would be hard to go against it.”
Previous attempts to ban smoking from CC’s campus haven’t been brought to fruition, but if the recently imposed Colorado Springs’ ban is a success, the current school government might reconsider the expulsion of cigars and cigarettes.