Town, Council divided

Youth tobacco ordinance incites debate

Weighty issues and creative alternatives highlighted the City Council's introduction of one of the most emotional ordinances the Council has debated in recent years.

The introduction of Ordinance No. 902, which would prohibit the possession and use of tobacco among minors, created a heated debate among audience members, and led to suggestions on a possible new city ordinance as well.

"I propose that if we are going to start a new tobacco ordinance for minors, we start one for fat kids as well," Craig resident Dave VanWagner said. "If you see any fat kids eating a taco at Taco Bell, having something to eat at McDonald's or trying to sneak a piece of cake, call the cops on them, have them and their parents arrested and then taken to Trapper Health Club so that they can work it off.

"That's the same thing that we are going to be doing with this tobacco ordinance, and it isn't right."

Mayor Dave DeRose volunteered to be the first to accept a penalty under VanWagner's proposed plan.

VanWagner said the health dangers of being overweight can be as serious as the risks associated with tobacco use, and that there are already enough laws to regulate behavior.

"Who knows where this will go from here," he said. "We have enough ordinances that aren't working, so what we should do is repeal these ordinances and put the parental control back in the home. We don't need kids, who already feel as though they are being harassed by police some of the time, having more reasons not to trust or cooperate with them."

DeRose, however, was complimentary of the job that the police department has done in the eight years since he has become a member of the City Council.

"When I first became a member of the City Council, all I heard was about how much the kids in Craig were being harassed by the police," he said. "But, I don't hear that anymore, and I would like to hand out an official, public mayoral commendation to the law enforcement agencies in town, because that is not something that we just don't hear.

"So, as far as I'm concerned that is not the main issue that we are going to have to face with this proposed ordinance."

Marilyn Bouldin of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) took the podium to speak about the risks associated with teen-age smoking, and suggested the ordinance be passed not only citywide, but countywide.

"Ideally, I would like to see this go to the County Commissioners to have them hear it," she said. "There is no reason that we should have to stop with just the city, when this is something that the entire county can use," she said. "We already have examples of laws that have been passed to provide safety from seatbelts, clean water and air, school attendance and the possession and use of alcohol. It is time that we close the loophole on this [allowing the possession of tobacco, but not the purchase], and create a more safe environment for our children."

Dr. Allan Rieshus echoed Bouldin's sentiments on passing the ordinance, mainly because it would prevent youth from starting to use tobacco.

"I am very strongly in favor of passing this ordinance, because if we can get kids to stop smoking before they start, we have defeated half of the problem," he said. "If we can use primary prevention and stop an action before it begins, it is a lot easier than trying to get someone to stop smoking when they are 30- to 50-years-old. At that point, it is just about futile trying to get someone to quit, and by then most of the negative health effects have already set in.

"Ages 10 to 14 are the vulnerable years for children, and the chances of them quitting later are very dismal."

Craig resident Denise Vice who has smoked since her teen-age years, is currently waging a war against cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Battling the disease has not deterred her from smoking.

"I'm here to tell you right now, smoking is addictive," she said. "I have cancer, am in chemotherapy and I cannot stop. I only wish that there would have been a law that would have stopped kids from smoking then, and possibly I wouldn't be in the situation that I am in now."

Despite the debate over the proposed ordinance, there is one thing that the entire audience did agree on smoking is dangerous.

"Although people may have different beliefs on this issue, do we all at least agree on one thing, and that is smoking is not good for you?" he asked.

Many possibilities still exist for Ordinance No. 902, with one being to take it to a public vote.

DeRose said that despite the fact that Council members are elected by residents to make these types of choices, an issue like this could go to a public vote.

"An issue like this is so emotional, and so widely debated that taking it to a public vote might just be something that we should look at," he said. "I appreciate the 20 or so people who came here tonight to discuss this, but we want to hear what everyone has to say about it because it is so important."

The Council will hold its first vote on the ordinance July 9.

In other news, the Council:

Elected to postpone the decision to renew the 3.2 percent liquor license for the Loaf N' Jug convenience store at 2441 W. Victory Way until after the store serves its suspension.

Approved a variance for a front yard setback for a covered porch at 456 Tucker St. by David Gowdy.

Approved a variance for a front yard setback for a covered porch at 865 Villa View Dr. by Larry Johns.

Approved the renewal of a 10-year conditional use permit for a nursery/garden center requested by Robert L. and Sharon A. Meckley.

Approved the purchase of a new lawn mower for the Parks and Recreation department in the amount of $35,400.

Approved Ordinance No. 903 to vacate a street right-of-way at Schrader Avenue and Ledford Streets.

Approved a right-of-way easement with Yampa Valley Electric Association.

Approved a change order the 2001 Asphalt Overlay Project, bringing the contract amount to $227,832.95

Approved a $2,500 membership to the Western Colorado Marketing Alliance.

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