Avon pushing countywide smoking ban
Although he doesn’t smoke, Jeff Freeman chose Tuesday to have lunch next to a couple of smokers in the bar at Bob’s restaurant in Avon.”I know the restaurant is smoke free,” said Freeman, 44, of Avon, “but the fact that the bar isn’t smoke free isn’t a big deal to me.”To Ralph Dockery, co-owner of Paddy’s restaurant in Eagle-Vail, knowing that secondhand smoke was bothering his clients was a problem. So in December, Dockery and his partner, Dale Ohde, decided to make their restaurant and bar smoke free.”It was our decision. I took the step because I wanted to show other restaurant owners I was willing to do it,” Dockery said.But Dockery, who also owns the Sundance Saloon in Vail, said if he went smoke free at the Lionshead bar, where the crowd is younger, he would lose 70 percent of his business because surrounding bars probably wouldn’t ban smoking. “(A smoking ban) has to be done countywide, so there’s no competitive disadvantage,” he said.That could happen, if the Eagle County commissioners – and voters – agree with the Avon Town Council. Earlier this month, the council wrote a letter to commissioners requesting they consider putting a question on the November ballot banning smoking in public places. “We didn’t want to do it just for Avon,” said Avon Town Councilman Pete Buckley. “We felt it could prejudice our restaurants. We talked to restaurant owners who told us they want it done countywide so it levels the playing field.”Smoke-free trendAlthough most of the local restaurants and bars haven’t followed Dockery’s steps yet, several have adopted ways to protect their customers from secondhand smoke. The Gore Range Brewery and Main Street Grill in Edwards are smoke free until 10:30 p.m., when they stop serving food.”I’m a non-smoker and my bartenders would be happy because they don’t appreciate the smoke,” said Greg Heiden, owner of the Main Street Grill. “However, a lot people now go outside out of courtesy. It’s more of an issue in the winter time.”Dockery said he and his partner made the decision to ban smoking at Paddy’s following customers’ complaints of secondhand smoke coming from the bar area.”I opposed a smoke ban for many years,” Dockery said. “But I changed my mind as information on the effects of secondhand smoke increased. We also followed what they did in places such as New York City and California, which now are smoke free.”According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, secondhand smoke kills 53,000 non-smokers nationally each year. Secondhand smoke is also known to cause lung cancer, heart disease, nasal sinus cancer, respiratory disease, bronchitis, middle ear infections, asthma and pneumonia.”Nationwide, more than 410 communities have passed laws that require all indoor work places and public places to be smoke free,” said Avon Mayor Buz Reynolds.In Summit County, smoking has been banned since June 1 in enclosed public places including bars and restaurants in Silverthorne, Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and in unincorporated areas. The laws were passed after voters approved a ballot question similar to what Avon is proposing. Ban’s effectAs in Summit County and other parts of the country, Avon’s anti-smoking proposal has already stoked fears of government intrusion and lost customers. “A smoking ban would affect our business,” Heiden said. “I’m always for letting the owners decide what it’s good for them.”But To Dockery, putting a smoke ban in his restaurant hasn’t been a financial punishment.”I feel we are a little bit at a disadvantage, but we got great feedback from families,” he said. “Actually, it’s been good. Now we can sit more families in the bar area.”Arthur West, who was playing pool at Bob’s on Tuesday, said he would vote against a ban.”There has to be a compromise,” said West, 29, of Avon. “The ideal would be that there are bars for smokers and bars for non-smokers.”Going to a bar and not being able to smoke is like going to a bar and not being able to drink,” West added. “Smoking goes together with drinking.” Since he adopted a smoking ban for his restaurant, Dockery said he had received just two complaints.”And those people are coming back,” he said. “You can be in the leading edge or the bleeding edge.”Anti-smoking ballot prospects unclear The Eagle County commissioners are divided on the need for a countywide smoke.Commissioner Tom Stone said he isn’t in favor of including a question for a smoke-free county on the November ballot.”If the town of Avon wants to enact a smoking ban, they can take a lead on it,” Stone said. “For the most part, the free market place takes care of itself.” Commissioner Arn Menconi, an avid biker, said he’ll be more than happy to let voters decide on a smoking ban.”Taking a step on the issue would send out a strong message of how much residents in the county value health,” Menconi said. “I’m very excited about this,” he added, “and I’m sure that with the level of health awareness in our community, a lot of people would be in favor of it. I know from my circle of friends that we’re not comfortable going to a place where there’s smoke.” But Commissioner Michael Gallagher said a smoking ban throughout the county would fail because the valley’s a tourist-oriented community.”We would be turning away visitors,” he said. Although he would consider putting the issue on the ballot if the commission received an official petition, Gallagher said he believes the business community would vote it down.”We are a few years away from a smoke ban,” he said. “We’re not ready.” Menconi said the citizens of Eagle County should have the last word. “I would vote for it,” said Renee Ristow, 50, of Edwards. “I’m not a smoker. It’s my right to go somewhere and be safe.”Rhonda Lawson, 43, of Edwards said she would vote against a ban.”It would be infringing on other people’s rights,” said Lawson, an occasional smoker.Secondhand smoke• Secondhand smoke kills 53,000 nonsmokers nationally each year.• Secondhand smoke is the No. 1 source of indoor air pollution and contains nearly 5,000 chemical compounds including arsenic, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide as well as radioactive elements. • Like asbestos, secondhand smoke has been classified as a “Class A” carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Only 13 other substances are considered as dangerous to human health.Source: Colorado Department of Health and Environment.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at email@example.com.