Aspen Valley Hospital campus is now tobacco free

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
A no-smoking sign is posted outside the Aspen Valley Hospital.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The Aspen Valley Hospital campus officially became smoke- and tobacco-free Tuesday, but officials don’t plan to crack down on offenders unless they get unruly.

Nan Sundeen, director of Pitkin County Health and Services, briefed county commissioners on the new policy at their work session Tuesday.

The new rules, which cover the main hospital building as well as the Health and Human Services building, Whitcomb Terrace for senior housing and other properties, had been in the works for more than a year.

The hospital and Health and Human Services had a series of focus meetings and did public outreach to notify residents and visitors of the new policy.

“It is simply about creating a healthy environment (for) people who come and visit the hospital campus, and as you all know, both the Whitcomb Terrace and Health and Human Services building are on the campus,” Sundeen told commissioners.

At a previous meeting, some commissioners cautioned Sundeen and hospital officials that oftentimes hospital visitors are under a lot of stress and use tobacco to alleviate it. A designated smoking area was suggested, but Sundeen said that option was eliminated because it could be confusing. Sundeen also noted that at many of the hospitals in Europe that have gone tobacco free, “when families are in crisis, there’s not a problem.”

“We don’t tell people where they can smoke, and we don’t tell them where they can’t smoke,” she said. “We just tell them not to smoke on the (hospital’s) property.”

The Aspen Police Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office also have been notified of the new policy, Sundeen said.

“We’re asking people to respect our policy,” she said. “This is not heavy-handed-enforcement kind of policy, and so both law enforcement agencies are aware, but we’re not likely to call them unless someone got belligerent or unruly.”

Rule breakers, however, will be given a courtesy card alerting them to their infraction, along with a stick of chewing gum, Sundeen said.

It reads: “Oops, you may not have known … Aspen Valley Hospital properties are Smoke & Tobacco Free. No smoking, vaping or tobacco use is permitted anywhere on-site, including: indoor areas, parking lots, RFTA bus stop and walkaways around campus.”

The card also provides offenders with a toll-free line to help them quit their habits.

“I hope it’s 100 percent successful,” commission Chair Steve Child said of the new policy.


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