WVU smoking ban causes headaches for others

West Virginia University's new smoking ban is causing headaches for residents and businesses near its campuses.

Sarah Zegre said that crowds of WVU employees now sit in her front yard or on the sidewalks in the morning smoking cigarettes. Some leave cigarette butts and the crates that they sit on outside her home.


She told the council that she and her 1-year-old daughter go outside daily at about 7:30 a.m. to meet the day and say good morning to the world.


"But now at 7:30 in the morning we are not only saying good morning to the birds and the trees, but we're saying good morning to gaggles of smokers — legitimate WVU employees — crowds of smokers sitting in our front yard, on the sidewalks smoking cigarettes. As we are not smokers, and we're also in our PJs, it's suddenly something that I don't want to do," she said.


To keep some privacy, her family no longer leaves windows open in their home.


"Because they're sitting right outside on the sidewalks, they get to be a part of three meals a day with the Zegre household," she said.


Zegre said that she supports the smoking ban but that she believes the ban is degrading to WVU employees.


"These are legitimate employees of the university and, although I would never have expected to be an advocate of a smoker. ... I think that WVU employees and even students when they come back in the fall are going to need a legitimate place to smoke."


City manager Jeff Mikorski said that the city has heard a number of similar concerns.


The ban, which went into effect July 1, prohibits the use of use tobacco products on WVU property or "any street, road or thoroughfare immediately adjacent to or passing through WVU-owned property."


Because the ban is recent, Mikorski said the city has not had any interaction with the university on the matter.


City mulls smoking ban for Colorado Springs parks

On too many occasions, Colorado Springs parks employees have found mounds of cigarette butts in city parks.

Those tossed butts present a fire danger, said Karen Palus, the city's director of parks, recreation and cultural services. She believes that people smoking in city parks are making an unhealthy environment for the rest of the park-goers.

Palus asked the City Council Monday to ban smoking in all city parks, with the exception of two public cemeteries and two public golf courses.

The move is intended to ensure health, safety and welfare of the city's residents and visitors, Palus said.

"The intent of the proposal is to reduce the detrimental health impacts of secondhand smoke on citizens, to provide the full enjoyment of the recreational aspects of parks facilities, to reduce litter and to protect the city's park and recreation properties from the extreme fire danger in the Pikes Peak region," the proposal said.

The issue goes before the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board Thursday and is expected to go back to the city council for a vote July 23.

Under the proposal, smoking in the park could get a person a $500 fine or up to 90 days in jail, the same as smoking inside public facilities where smoking is not allowed.

But Palus said the city would roll out an intensive educational campaign and hopes that residents self-police.

Other cities, including Commerce City and Arvada, have banned smoking in parks. In Boulder, the city recently banned smoking along Pearl Street, its downtown corridor. In recent months there has been a backlash against the Boulder no-smoking policy from homeless residents who say they are disproportionately ticketed, according to a June 8 Daily Camera article.

Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, a homeless outreach program, doesn't buy that argument. He said the proposed Colorado Springs policy treats everyone fairly.

"I absolutely don't think is it singling out homeless individuals," he said.

A Colorado Springs smoking ban for parks first came up in October 2012 when Mayor Steve Bach put forward his desire to ban smoking in Acacia Park. He said back then he would ask the city attorney to research the issue.

His idea of no-smoking in Acacia Park, which is at the corner of Tejon Street and Platte Avenue, is part of a larger vision that he dubbed a downtown renaissance. Some of his ideas have been acted on including installing downtown surveillance cameras and LED lights along Tejon Street and Acacia Park. Bach said, then, he was concerned that residents were leery of spending time in Acacia Park and believed a smoking ban might help attract more people downtown.

Palus said the city looked at variations of the ban, including just banning smoking in some of the city's parks or by geographic area, like Boulder. But a blanket ban is the best with some designated smoking areas in some parks, she said.

She estimates the city would spend about $8,000 making no-smoking signs, but said it could be done within the existing parks budget.

"We have heard from a lot of (park) users about their health concerns," Palus said. "They are headed down trails and someone is smoking and it interferes with their ability to enjoy the park."