Raymond Minton smokes on the 16th Street Mall at Tremont Place on Friday. Minton, who works on the mall, said any possible smoking ban on the mall "sounds like Boulder." He added: "To totally ban it, that's harsh. They're making us second-class citizens." (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Pot-smoking ban on Denver’s 16th Street Mall gateway to tobacco ban

Pot smoking has been banned from Denver’s 16th Street Mall. So why not tobacco?

Local civic and business leaders are floating a plan to stop all smoking on the mall, an extension of an ordinance passed last year by the Denver City Council that prohibits the use or display of marijuana on the mall and in city parks.

The Downtown Denver Partnership has created a task force that may ask the city to ban tobacco smoking along the entirety of the 16th Street Mall, from its upper terminus at Broadway to Chestnut Street in the Central Platte Valley.

“We’re looking at the health and welfare of our residents and tourists,” said Brittany Morris Saunders, vice president of public affairs for the partnership, which manages the downtown commercial district. “The mall is the No. 1 tourist destination in metro Denver, and it’s where we have the largest concentration of businesses.”

Saunders said that in addition to health concerns about secondhand smoke, the task force is looking at the environmental and financial consequences of dealing with countless thousands of discarded cigarette butts.

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Getting tobacco smoking banned would require a Denver city ordinance. The partnership doesn’t have council sponsors lined up yet. Saunders said prospective backers of the plan include the Colorado Health Foundation and Denver Health.

Denver would follow a path well traveled in Colorado and nationwide.

Boulder, in the wake of banning smoking on the Pearl Street Mall, is considering an expansion that would prohibit smoking in a broad swath of the downtown business improvement district, as well as in nearly all city parks, open spaces, paths and trails.

Golden in August passed an ordinance that bans smoking in most downtown areas and city-owned outdoor spaces, including parks and trails.

Other cities, particularly in California, have enacted similar prohibitions in commercial areas.

“The conversation certainly is increasing around the country,” said David Downey, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based International Downtown Association. “We’re beginning to activate our public spaces to a greater degree.”

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A 2006 ordinance to ban smoking on the popular Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif., has been a success, said Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica.

“Lots of restaurants (with outdoor seating) initially thought they would be affected,” she said. “But they actually ended up finding that they had more customers. Outdoor dining has become more popular.”

Morris of the Downtown Denver Partnership said the proposed ban, as currently contemplated, would apply to the mall’s public right of way, which includes restaurants’ outdoor seating.

Morris said she is not aware of any organized opposition to the proposal.

But the Denver plan infringes on smokers’ rights, said Mary Szarmach, a vice president with Boulder-based tobacco purveyor Smoker Friendly.

“What the hell? Do they think they’re Boulder?” she said. “I don’t know where they are going with this. It’s part of the nanny state we live in. Nobody can make their own decisions; we have to have laws for everything.”

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com