Basalt ponders tough smoking ban | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt ponders tough smoking ban

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Basalt town government will consider if it should snuff smoking in bars, parks and private offices.The town is holding a public meeting April 6 to see if it should adopt something similar to Eagle County’s strict new smoking ban. “Has the private sector taken care of the problem?” Town Manager Bill Efting said. “That’s what the council wants to hear.”The county’s ban – which Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, a leading proponent, labeled the strictest in the country – went into effect last weekend. Voters approved it last fall. The ban goes far beyond banning smoking in bars and restaurants and public places. It also targets parks, private offices and outdoor spaces within 25 feet of a doorway, effectively prohibiting smoking on restaurant patios.The ban applies only to areas outside Eagle County’s incorporated towns. So places like the bar at El Jebowl and the Shortstop bar and restaurant in El Jebel must follow the rules, but Basalt establishments can do as they please.Mike Stascavage, owner of the Shortstop, said the ban hasn’t affected business in the first few days, but the jury is still out.”Of course I have concerns about it. Ninety-nine percent of my customers smoke,” he said.Stascavage isn’t convinced government intervention was necessary. “Nonsmokers don’t come in here, and if they do, they know what they’re walking into,” he said.His biggest concern is the uneven playing field. Patrons could migrate to the few places in Carbondale and Basalt that allow smoking.Menconi said Eagle County is asking towns to consider a similar ordinance, in part to avoid providing unfair advantages for some establishments. So far, only Avon has adopted the ban.Menconi tries to persuade municipal officials that their constituents want a smoking ban because 72 percent of Eagle County residents who voted in November passed it.Efting said he supports fact-finding, but he isn’t recommending a position to his board. A survey by Basalt staff indicated that only two bars/restaurants out of about 30 in Basalt allow smoking. Two Rivers allows smokers to light up after 2:30 p.m., after its brisk breakfast and lunch business has cleared. Stubbies allows smoking during all hours of operation. It started as a smoke-free bar in the 1990s, but the original owners gave in to customers’ demands.Scott Outten, one of the current owners, said he has been thinking of the issue because of Eagle County’s ban. He said he is torn on the topic. On the one hand, he could lose some smoking customers if Basalt enacted the ban. He estimated as many as 75 percent of his customers are smokers. On the other hand, Outten said, it would create an even playing field in the midvalley. He has also seen potential customers, like a recent family of four, leave because smoking is allowed.”It’s a hard thing to gauge,” he said.It’s not hard for Menconi. He will try to make the April 6 meeting to convince Basalt to adopt Eagle County’s ban. He said even if market forces have persuaded all but two bars in Basalt to ban smoking, he still thinks government should intervene.”It’s pretty simple to me,” Menconi said. “Smoking kills. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer. Government’s role is to worry about public health.”The Basalt meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 6 in Town Hall. The public is invited to comment.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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