Avon smokers: Lighten up on lighting up | AspenTimes.com

Avon smokers: Lighten up on lighting up

Matt Terrell
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Brass Parrot bar customers Bruce Sater, left, DJ Redding, center, and a man who did not wish to be named take a cigarette break on the lawn next to the Avon Center bar Wednesday. (Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily)

AVON, Colo. ” Puffing away on a Camel cigarette in the parking lot by Finnegan’s Wake in Avon, Chas Brodie says he misses smoking with his beers.

“It doesn’t stop me from going out, but sure, I’d rather drink a beer, sit outside and smoke a cigarette with it,” he said.

In fact, customers will often choose a cigarette over another beer, says Randall Knipmeyer, manager at Finnegan’s Wake.

With Avon law requiring smokers to move 25 feet away from public buildings to light up, customers have to leave the restaurant instead of eating, drinking and smoking on the deck.

“It cuts into our revenue,” Knipmeyer said.

Knipmeyer and 23 other business owners, managers, waiters and bartenders signed a proposal asking Avon to end the smoking ban it enacted more than a year ago and adopt the more lenient Colorado State Law.

Avon’s current law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of most public places, while the Colorado law only prohibits smoking within 15 feet of any public entrance.

The Avon Town Council will revisit this smoking law Tuesday and is encouraging people to attend the discussion and speak their mind.

Knipmeyer says it costs money to enforce Avon’s law ” he has to keep doormen on even at slow hours to make sure people don’t smoke. He’s also worried about people taking their drinks with them when they go to smoke, which would put him in violation of his liquor license.

The 25-foot rule can be especially confusing for tourists from places like Denver, where the law is more lax. Avon is west of Vail and near the Beaver Creek ski area.

“People from out of town will definitely smoke on our deck without knowing it,” said Brandt Olsen, a bartender at Loaded Joe’s. “I think 25 feet is a bit much. These are bars, (smoking is) something to be expected with that business.”

Tickets can cost up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for a second and up to $500 for subsequent violations.

If Avon went back to the Colorado standard, people would be able to smoke on restaurant patios if the seating is at least 15 feet from a main entrance of a building.

“That would be just wonderful,” said Bud Kippling, a 25-year smoker from Edwards who often eats in Avon. “I don’t see a problem with giving these businesses some flexibility.”

Flexibility though means nasty air for many people. Avon resident Rachel Brown likes the smoke-free decks in Avon.

“What’s the point in eating outside without the fresh air?” she says.

That was the attitude of about 72 percent of Eagle County voters in 2005, who approved a smoking ban for Edwards, Eagle-Vail, Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain. Not long after county commissioners enacted the ban, Avon followed suit.

And besides the “fresh air” aspect, the dangers of second-hand smoke remain obvious to health officials.

“The surgeon general’s report made it clear that there are no risk-free levels of exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Kimberly Hills, director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance. “Second-hand smoke is a danger. It causes lung cancer.”

Brown said she appreciates the town discussing issues with citizens, but she hopes the council doesn’t seriously consider changing the law.

“That wouldn’t make sense to me, knowing what we know about smoking,” she said. “I like that Avon took a tougher stand.”

Hills said it’s strange for a town to revisit a smoking ban.

Usually, the people who appreciate smoking bans aren’t as outspoken as those against them, she said.

“I hope they do speak out about it though, let the council know they would like to remain smoke-free,” Hills said.