Advocates bring back statewide smoking ban proposal in Denver

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DENVER – Bartender Lisa Nieto dumps ashtrays crammed with hundreds of cigarette butts every night and copes with colds and sinus infections her doctors blame on secondhand smoke from her customers.”Their chain smoking is a reflection of my health,” Nieto, who works in Denver, said Wednesday at the state Capitol as she endorsed a proposed statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

With most state lawmakers up for re-election this year, backers of the ban are hoping political pressure will lead to approval of a plan that failed last year. Besides protecting nonsmokers, they say, it’s the fair thing to do for people like Nieto who have to inhale smoke as they work. “This isn’t just about those of us who wander into a restaurant and are inconvenienced by smoke,” said Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, a co-sponsor of the bill.”It’s those that are there eight, 10, 12 hours a day earning a meager living as a waitress, waiter, or bartender,” he said.

A similar proposal was killed last spring in the Senate when then-Minority Leader Mark Hillman lined up Republicans against it and a few Democrats joined them to block the proposal.Sen. John Evans of Parker, a Republican who voted with Democrats last year, is co-sponsoring the measure this year with Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver.Half of Colorado’s 35 state Senate seats and all 65 state House seats are up for re-election this fall, making incumbents who aren’t term-limited more sensitive to voter sentiment.

“It is going to be tough for them to oppose such a wildly popular measure,” Grossman said.The proposal would still allow smoking in the smoking lounge at Denver International Airport and in cigar bars but supporters expect to be lobbied for more exemptions, including casinos and strip clubs.May said casinos want exemptions because their business depends on getting people to stay and gamble. Casinos fear that once customers walk outside to smoke, they won’t be back.

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