Hershey: Bust teen smokers
Delayed but not discouraged, Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey will continue to pursue adoption of a stricter underage smoking ordinance in Aspen.
Hershey was ready to debate the proposal with his fellow council members tonight, but the discussion has been delayed to allow more time for drafting the ordinance.
Hershey would like Aspen to follow Glenwood Springs’ lead in closing a gap in the laws concerning underage smoking. As in most Colorado towns, it is illegal in Aspen for people under 18 to purchase tobacco products – but it is not illegal to possess or smoke them.
Glenwood Springs decided in 1994 that the laws were a bit of a double standard and passed a law that made it a crime for minors to possess cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“It’s about time,” said Glenwood Springs police Lt. Lou Vallario, after hearing that Aspen’s smoking laws may one day become stricter. “We were the first city in Colorado to close the gap [between purchasing and possessing tobacco], and we’re asked for copies [of the law] from towns all across the state.”
Vallario said the stricter smoking laws are generally supported by the Glenwood community and are pretty tightly enforced. Approximately five to 10 citations are handed out weekly, often to the same offenders. But Vallario insisted that many kids seem to straighten out after being cited.
“The response from parents is mixed, with some saying that it’s a victimless crime. But the bottom line is that it’s against the law,” Vallario said.
Underage smoking in Glenwood Springs is a misdemeanor subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. But according to the city attorney’s office, letting kids know about the hazards of smoking is usually the penalty on a first offense.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.