Boulder, Colorado smokers will no longer be able to light up in the downtown business district, in city parks, open space or within 25 feet of bus stops, multi-use paths and entrances to buildings.
The Boulder City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt the outdoor smoking ban, the latest in a series of bans that started with a prohibition on smoking on the Pearl Street Mall in 2012.
Last year, the city banned smoking in the Civic Area and near Boulder High School through city manager’s rules.
The broad outdoor smoking ban applies to electronic cigarettes as well as conventional cigarettes, and that issue was the sole source of disagreement among the people who spoke at a public hearing on the ordinance.
Kevan Masters told the City Council he smoked for 22 years and finally was able to quit by switching to vaping.
“Electronic cigarettes” usually contain a battery-operated heating element that vaporizes a solution containing nicotine. That vapor is then inhaled by the user. Unless the solution is flavored — which it often is — there is no odor.
Advocates of vaping say it is much safer than smoking cigarettes and provides an alternative for people who have been unable to quit in other ways.
They told the City Council banning vaping in public sends a message to smokers that they should just keep smoking cigarettes because there is no difference and that there is no equivalent to second-hand smoke that would harm passersby.
But Boulder County Public Health Director Jeff Zayach said studies have shown some of the by-products of vaping may be harmful, and it keeps people addicted to nicotine. Allowing vaping in public also normalizes nicotine use and sends the wrong message to children, he said.
In making the motion to include electronic cigarettes in the ban, Councilman Tim Plass said he would rather err on the side of caution.
“I still have serious concerns about e-cigarettes,” he said. “They are not regulated, and nicotine is still harmful. And people might not know they are around them.”
Councilman Macon Cowles agreed.
“I’m not buying the argument that we should let vaping go forward because it is less damaging than smoking,” he said. “The jury is still out, but I’m old enough to remember when the industry pushing smoking had doctors endorsing nicotine. I don’t want to send the message to young people that it’s OK to consume tobacco in this way.”
Councilman George Karakehian, who lost his father to lung cancer, said he would support the ban, but he thought including e-cigarettes was a mistake.
“It doesn’t bother me if someone vapes near me because I believe the effect on me is minimal,” he said. “I think when the studies do come in, we should be open to changing this and have it be available to people. I believe if my dad vaped his whole life, he’d be addicted to nicotine but alive.”
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said it was remarkable that no one came forward to oppose the smoking ban on cigarettes.
“It’s interesting that extending this to parks and open space is fairly non-controversial,” he said. “That’s a really significant thing. Places that people might want to linger, parks and open space, are now free of second-hand smoke.”
The ban will apply within the boundaries of the downtown business district, which extends several blocks around the Pearl Street Mall, including alleys within the district, all city parks and open space, Chautauqua, Flatirons Golf Course, multi-use paths, within 25 feet of those paths, and within 25 feet of bus stops and building entrances.
City officials said enforcement would start with warnings and signage. Police likely won’t start writing tickets until May.