Consistent state smoking laws needed |

Consistent state smoking laws needed

The Breckenridge Restaurant Association (BRA) and the Summit County Restaurant Association (SCRA), which are also chapters of the Colorado Restaurant Association, offer these views on anti-smoking issues:

The proposal to ban smoking in public places in Summit County is stirring a lot of controversy among local residents, as well as among members of the Breckenridge and Summit County Restaurant Associations.

As we’ve seen in city after city where a ban is being considered or enacted, this contentious issue divides the community and often pits operator against operator by allowing smoking in some establishments and not others.

Both of our associations agree we do not support any measure that would put some members who are within cities and unincorporated areas at a competitive disadvantage to those nearby who would be excluded from a ban.

In addition, it’s crucial to consider how a ban might affect tourism and consequently, local government and residents who rely on restaurant sales tax dollars to provide basic services such as police and fire protection, street maintenance, recreational facilities, performing arts centers, special town events, festive lights, historic and environmental preservation and more.

If passed in Summit County, a smoking ban would put our entire community at a competitive disadvantage to Vail, Steamboat Springs and other resorts that allow smoking.

After two difficult years spurred by terrorists attacks, a protracted downturn in travel and tourism, last year’s wildfires and the war with Iraq, can Summit County’s economy afford to take another hit?

We assure you many restaurant operators – already on shaky ground during these tough economic times – cannot.

Even a brief downturn could force any number to close their doors. Many employees in the county’s restaurant and bar industry could lose their jobs as a result of sales declines and closures, further punishing our local economy.

As the demand for smoke-free dining has risen, more and more operators have voluntarily responded. To accommodate all patrons, many establishments also allow smoking in designated bar areas.

At considerable expense, some have installed sophisticated ventilation systems that help alleviate the effects of second-hand smoke.

A smoking ban would not only render these costly investments useless but also compound the economic loss these establishments will suffer by losing their customers who smoke.

Restaurants are already among the nation’s most heavily regulated small businesses.

At the same time, our industry provides more jobs than any other non-government employer as well as the lion’s share of sales tax dollars from travel and tourism.

Adding another layer of regulation will do nothing to help our small businesses grow and prosper.

While key details of the Summit County proposal, including definitions and enforcement procedures, are still under discussion, we suspect a smoking ban also would challenge local government, which may have to hire additional personnel or assign extra duties to existing staff to monitor compliance.

The diversity of existing local smoking laws is creating confusion among the public concerning what is legal, what is restricted and who is responsible for enforcement.

While we believe that market forces instead of government should drive decisions concerning smoke-free policy, many local governments are unwilling to allow that flexibility.

Therefore the BRA and the SCRA support a statewide law governing the regulation of smoking in all restaurants and bars that pre-empts all existing local provisions.

A statewide law would not only level the playing field among restaurant operators, but also bridge the divide carved by the patchwork of ordinances now popping up in too many Colorado communities.

This opinion piece was submitted by the Breckenridge Restaurant

Association board members John Daisy, Dick Carleton, Michael Clark, Roe Schardt, Tom Bauder, Pat Phelan, Jay Beckerman and Keith Barton; and Summit County Restaurant Association

board members Bob Starekow and Dan Fallon.

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