Snuffing out second-hand smoke

Lawmakers propose statewide ban on lighting up in public places

At about 3 p.m. Wednesday, all three of the customers in Mather's Bar and Grill were smoking.

Charlie Guseman smoked Marlboro Reds. He's 68 and doesn't have a gray hair on his head. His dad lived to be 99, and he smoked Camels until the day he died. He attributes his family's health to clean country living.

He doesn't think smoking in the bar hurts him.

"When I'm in the country, I don't smoke that much. When I'm in town, I smoke in the bar." Guseman said.

But if state lawmakers are successful in banning smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, Guseman figures smokers will stay away from the bar.

State senators unveiled legislation Wed-nesday that would ban smoking in public places.

"This legislation accomplishes the dual objectives of upholding the public health principle that indoor places where people congregate should be smoke-free, while also ensuring a level economic playing field for Colorado businesses," Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, said in a statement. Grossman is the bill's Senate sponsor.

Pueblo, Greeley, Snowmass Village, Fort Collins and Boulder County have enacted similar smoking bans. A Craig ordinance bans people younger than 18 years old from smoking in public.

Judy Hiester, the tobacco educator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said it's about time state lawmakers banned smoking in public places.

"The controversy about second-hand smoke is over. It's the third leading cause of death in Colorado, after tobacco smoking and alcohol," Hiester said.

Delbert Knez owns The OP Bar & Grill. He plans to fight the smoking ban, and he expects most other Craig bar owners to do the same.

"I think we'll fight it all the way," Knez said. "It should be up to the bar owner to use his discretion whe-ther someone smokes in his establishment."

Knez, who doesn't smoke, thinks some people only come to his bar in the summer because they can sit outside. About six years ago, Knez inst-alled a ventilation system in his bar. Bartenders call the systems "smoke eaters." The system cost Knez $15,000. It brings fresh air into the bar and blows out cigarette smoke. Heating the air during winter can run his heating bill as high as $1,000.

But Knez worried the ban could cost him some customers.

Smoker Friendly tobacco shops will hold a meeting later this month to discuss a new product designed for smokers to use while in smoke-free establishments. JoDeena Bull-ock, manager of Craig's Smoker Frien-d-ly, said she didn't know much about the product yet, except it would be similar to chew.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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