Commissioners cautious about tobacco-free Aspen Valley Hospital campus
Pitkin County commissioners got their first whiff Tuesday of a joint plan by Health and Human Services and Aspen Valley Hospital to make the medical facility’s campus free of smoking and tobacco use.
While commissioners were receptive of the idea to create a healthier climate for the hospital grounds, they also noted the downside to such a plan.
“I think we need to be really careful,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said.
She said smokers will take their habits off campus, such as to the nearby Castle Creek Road or pedestrian trail, creating public-safety issues such as traffic accidents or fires when they put out their butts.
“We need to think about where we’re pushing these people and what those unintended consequences may be,” Clapper said.
The entire Aspen Valley Hospital campus includes the Health and Human Services building, which houses the Aspen Day Center for homeless people, the detox center and Mind Springs Health, a program for substance abusers. The hospital owns that land, but the county owns the Health and Human Services building.
The campus also includes the hospital and public bus stop, as well as employee housing and Whitcomb Terrace, which is senior housing. The Basalt After-Hours Medical Care clinic and Snowmass Clinic are included as well.
Tobacco use isn’t allowed inside public buildings, but smoking is allowed outside the buildings so long as it is not within 15 feet of the structures.
The Day Center is the only county tenant that has protested the policy, largely because many of its clients smoke.
“We believe that a smoke- and tobacco-free campus is the most healthy environment we can create on the hospital campus,” said Nan Sundeen, the county’s head of Health and Human Services.
Sundeen said a public awareness campaign about the new policy will start June 1, with plans to implement the ban Sept. 1. The prohibition also would include e-cigarettes and vaporizers, regardless of what type of substance they are used to smoke.
The policy change will need the commissioners’ approval because the board is in charge of approving all lease agreements for county property, which includes the Health and Human Services building.
Commissioners also expressed concern that hospital visitors, often under stressful times, won’t be able to smoke. Some commissioners suggested a designated smoking area in the old Little Feet day care center’s playground area, but that concept hasn’t officially been explored yet.
Overall, however, commissioners appeared receptive of the idea.
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Both President Donald Trump and the Republican Party stand to reap quite a windfall after Vice President Mike Pence visits Aspen on Monday for a fundraiser.