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Centennial mulls smoking ban

ASPEN ” A smoking ban is being contemplated throughout all privately owned condominiums at Centennial after two recent cigarette-caused fires broke out there and at another Aspen affordable-housing complex.

“We almost might be obliged to do something about it, and this could be ground-breaking,” said Ed Cross, president of the Centennial condominium association. “It’s a safety issue now.”

The ban, which will be discussed by the condominium association board Tuesday, comes in response to a fire that broke out at the Castle Ridge apartment complex on June 10. A smoldering cigarette left in potting soil on a balcony destroyed a building and left 17 people homeless.

Less than two weeks later another smoldering cigarette was left in a flower box at Centennial, but firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it caused any damage.

“Now we have this situation … in light of the Castle Ridge incident and our follow-up incident … [in which] some people here want to ban smoking,” said Cross, adding he is a supporter of a smoking ban in all 92 privately owned condos at Centennial. “I would prefer to attempt to ban smoking here because it’s a safety issue.”

This isn’t the first time a smoking ban at Centennial has been considered. Some residents complained that their neighbors were smoking excessively, and the condominium association last year recognized the dangers of smoking in its bylaws. The move followed a ruling by a judge in Golden, Colo. recognizing that smoking in multifamily units ruins the enjoyment of one’s home for others. That ruling paves the way for the argument that a smoking ban could be warranted, Cross said.

“I would rather implement a policy and let someone challenge it in court,” he said. “If you think your neighbor might kill you by smoking, you might have a psychological effect and that can disrupt your quiet enjoyment of life.”

He added that he recognizes that banning smoking inside private homes raises civil liberty issues, but it’s a necessary measure and should go beyond common areas at the complex, including decks. There are only a handful of smokers in the homeowner portion of Centennial, Cross said. If the board was to pass a smoking ban, it would have to be enforced on a complaint basis. Violators would likely be fined, Cross said.

Aspen Fire Marshall Ed VanWalraven also supports a ban at Centennial, and other complexes, as well. He said cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in United States, although not the primary cause of fires. Between 700 and 900 people are killed as a result of cigarette-caused fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Between 2002 and 2005, almost half ” or 42 percent ” of fatal home smoking-related fire victims were sleeping when injured; one-third, or 32 percent, were attempting to escape, to fight the fire, or to rescue others, according to the NFPA. There were 82,400 smoking-material structure fires in the United States in 2005.

If cigarettes are not properly extinguished, they will smolder and ignite surrounding material for hours after they are left, which results in most fires happening in the middle of the night when people are sleeping ” as was the case at Castle Ridge, VanWalraven said.

Subsequently, a smoking ban has been instituted property-wide at Castle Ridge, which is privately owned and rented out to tenants.

“We need to limit our potential from major fires as a result of cigarette smoking, especially in multifamily units,” VanWalraven said.

VanWalraven also supports the tobacco industry being required to manufacture fire-safe cigarettes. The product involves wrapping cigarettes with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that act as “speed bumps” to slow down a burning cigarette. If a fire-safe cigarette is left unattended, the burning tobacco will reach one of these speed bumps and self-extinguish.

New York State was the first to require that cigarettes sold and manufactured in the state be fire-safe. In Canada, fire-safe cigarettes are mandated nationwide using the New York state standard.

Colorado has passed legislation mandating fire-safe cigarettes, but the law has yet to take effect.

The Centennial condominium association will discuss the smoking ban on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in a meeting room at the Pitkin County Library.

“It might be a smart move from an insurance standpoint too,” Cross said, adding Centennial units have smoke detectors but no sprinklers.

csack@aspentimes.com


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