Aspen housing authority to ban smoking

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is joining scores of other government-run entities by banning smoking on its properties.

The prohibition will be in all units at APCHA-owned properties, which includes Truscott, Marolt seasonal housing and Aspen Country Inn, but won’t go into effect until June of 2020, said APCHA deputy director Cindy Christensen.

She said between now and then, APCHA and its property managers will focus on public outreach and incorporate the new rules into current leases.

Christensen said having the hundreds of units in the APCHA-owned inventory smoke-free falls in line with almost every housing authority in the country.

“This is something we’ve been dealing with for years,” she said, adding APCHA regularly fields complaints from residents about their neighbors’ smoke and cigarette butts littering the properties.

“People don’t think responsibly,” Christensen said.

The Music Associates of Aspen, which occupies the Marolt campus during the summer, already maintains a smoke-free campus.

When all of APCHA’s units become smoke-free, the agency will have designated areas on the properties with cigarette receptacles.

In a memo to Aspen City Council, APCHA staff explained that going smoke-free will not translate into reduced insurance premiums but it is the “right decision from a health and safety standpoint.”

Castle Ridge, which is privately owned but deed-restricted under APCHA rules, went smoke-free on the entire property more than a decade ago after a resident accidently burned a building down by leaving a cigarette smoldering in a potted plant. Seventeen people were displaced and a cat died.

The homeowners association at Centennial, another privately owned housing complex but deed-restricted, attempted a smoking ban six months after the Castle Ridge fire but a majority felt the move was too heavy-handed.

That is not the case across Snowmass Village’s 250 deed-restricted units, where all smoking is banned inside of the units, said Betsy Crum, the town’s housing director.

The no-smoking policy in Snowmass housing was made roughly 10 years ago.

“In the long run, it’s been an effective policy,” Crum said.

In 2015, the Aspen Valley Campus, including the county’s health and human services building and the senior housing complex, Whitcomb Terrace, went smoke- and tobacco-free.

The city of Aspen has taken a hard line on tobacco usage in recent years, with changing the legal age to buy products from 18 to 21 years old and putting an additional $3 tax on cigarettes via a public vote.

City Council also is in the process of banning all flavored tobacco products, which are popular among teenagers.

“The focus should be on banning the flavored products, which I believe are marketed to children and they become lifelong customers,” Dr. Kim Levin, medical officer for the Pitkin County Board of Health told council last month. “The political climate is ripe and we thought this was timely.”


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