Youth could face stiff penalties for tabacco use

City Council considers fines, public service as punishment

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Responsibility was the word in question Tuesday night, as City Council members attempted to iron out some of the issues raised in conjunction with a proposed tobacco ordinance.

With the introduction of Ordinance 902, which would ban the use and possession of tobacco by minors, questions arose as to who would be responsible for tobacco possession, as well as what rights the offender would maintain.

"I'm not saying that I am against an ordinance like this, I just want to make sure that we have everything straight," Mayor pro tem Bill Johnston said. "I have a ton of questions as to the way that the proposed ordinance is drawn up, so we are going to have to address those."

The ordinance defines tobacco as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or any other tobacco product. What is not so clearly defined, though, is what constitutes possession, a question that Johnston posed to City Attorney, Sherman Romney.

"What if a kid is driving their parents' car and one of their parents leaves a pack of cigarettes on the dash? Is that going to constitute possession?" Johnston asked. "We can even go as far as to even wonder whether or not cigarette butts are going to be reason for a citation."

proposed penalties:

1st offense:

A fine of not more than $30.

Attendance in a one-hour tobacco education and cessation class and payment of applicable fees for the class. All or a portion of the fines may be suspended upon completion of the class.

Three months unsupervised probation with conditions of completion of the class and payment of the fines and costs. Once the conditions of probation are met, the probation shall be suspended by the court clerk.

2nd offense:

A fine of not more than $50.

Attendance in a three-hour tobacco education and cessation class and payment of applicable fees. No part of the fine shall be suspended.

A parent or guardian shall attend a one-hour adult tobacco education class and pay applicable fees.

Useful public service between 15 and 20 hours and the payment of applicable fees.

Up to 6 months unsupervised probation.

3rd offense:

A fine of not more than $200.

Attendance in a 10-hour tobacco education and cessation class and pay applicable fees. No part of the fines shall be suspended.

Between 20 and 40 hours of useful public service with parental participation and pay applicable fees.

Up to 6 months unsupervised probation.

4th and subsequent offenses:

A fine of up to $300.

Minimum of 40 hours of useful public with parental participation and pay applicable fees.

Up to one year of unsupervised probation.

Council member Carl Chapman was concerned about the financial penalties that would be incurred in the event of the citation. With a financial penalty included, he believes that will only lead to parents having to bail out children.

"I think that we should focus more on some sort of community service that can make a visible difference," he said. "For the first offense, we should make these kids go out and spend a day clearing the right of ways around town. It would make the city both look better, and also help to prevent some of the vehicle accidents that we have with deer.

"If they have to spend a day out working in the town, that would take a little more from them than a fine, that would probably end up being paid by their parents."

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition representative Cindy Biskup, presented some statistics about tobacco use in Colorado.

"In Colorado, 90 percent of cigarette smokers begin by age 18, 37 percent of high school students have used tobacco in the last 30 days, and over 4,400 people die in Colorado due to tobacco-related illnesses every year," she said. "This should be a concern for all of us, because cigarettes are available to these kids, and it is important that we at least make an effort to stop this."

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta echoed Biskup's comments. He thinks there is little that the city can now do if high school students are smoking cigarettes away from the school.

"One of our biggest concerns is the high school," he said. "As it stands now, kids can just walk across the street, off of school property, and smoke cigarettes without us being able to stop them. The school has a policy against tobacco use, but once they are off the property, they are free to do what they want."

The penalties and the definition of possession in the ordinance will be revised and addressed again at the June 12 Council meeting.

In other Council news:

A special events permit was approved for the Ride N' Tie Rodeo Association for the Whittle da Wood Wandezvous which will be June 16 at the Craig City Park.

Passed a measure to vacation a portion of a street at 9th Street and Breeze Street, requested by Dan Lowe.

Approved a conditional use permit for an apartment on Lots 1, 2, and 3 at 690 Taylor St. The request was made by Patrick Curley.

Approved an out-of-city water use agreement for the Country Meadow Subdivision located off Moffat County Road 7. The request was made by Frank M. and Sue A. Weidner.

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