16th Street Mall smoking ban gets its first official airing at City Council

16th Street Mall smoking ban gets its first official airing at City Council

Downtown Denver leaders want residents, workers and tourists to breathe easier on the 16th Street Mall.

Unless they’re smokers. Then they want them to take a little hike before they light up or take a drag from their vape pen.

Forwarding an idea that dates back three years, Denver City Council President Albus Brooks is pushing the council to ban smoking on the entirety of the open-air mall from Broadway to Chestnut Place.

A draft ordinance Brooks is circulating would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers – no matter the substance inside — as well as cigarettes, cigars, stogies and the like. 

“This is a health and safety issue,” Brooks said in a meeting of the council’s safety, housing, education and homelessness committee Wednesday. “And to me it really comes down to the dangers and the effects of secondhand smoke. Someone who does not choose to smoke should not have to live in that environment.”

Dubbing the measure the “Breathe Easy on the Mall” ordinance, Brooks has plenty of backers. Local health officials and representatives from the Downtown Denver Partnership accompanied Brooks Wednesday. Street-level business owners, RTD, and, most importantly to Brooks as the area’s council representative, many people who live near the mall have urged him to snuff out smoking there, he said.

State law bans smoking in restaurants, bars and other shared indoor spaces, mandating smokers move at least 15 feet from the entryways of building before inhaling. Denver law bumps that distance to 25 feet, something that Brooks and advisors with the Denver police admit is difficult to enforce, even under penalty of a $300 fine.

Education will be a key element of “Breathe Easy,” Brooks said. A lit cig could earn a scofflaw a ticket of up to $100 under the law, but that should be a last resort. Brooks anticipates an initial grace period during which police and downtown security officials focus on informing smokers about the rules and pointing them to areas at least 50 feet off 16th Street. Denver Health has pledged $10,000 to producing signs for the education campaign.

“We believe 80 percent of the folks who are smoking on the mall right now will immediately stop smoking because of the education,” Brooks said.

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