Bill Kenline, manager of Rodeway Inn & Suites at 1623 S. Nevada Ave., has had a tough time enforcing the regulations limiting smoking promulgated under Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006.
Now Kenline and other business owners must find ways to enforce more stringent regulations on smoking and vaping that went into effect July 1.
The new regulations, passed by the Legislature this year, add vaping to behavior covered by the Clean Indoor Air Act.
“We all deserve clean air to breathe without having to worry about secondhand smoke or breathing in vape chemicals. It makes sense to align the law for traditional cigarettes with e-cigarettes,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The regulations include these changes:
• Vaping is not allowed in indoor public places, including all bars and restaurants.
• People will have to stand at least 25 feet from entrances while smoking. The previous distance was 15 feet.
• All hotel and motel rooms will be smoke- and vape-free.
• All businesses will be smoke- and vape-free.
• Common areas of assisted living facilities will be smoke- and vape-free.
The changes come as evidence mounts that vaping is epidemic among young people. According to the state health department, Colorado high school students vape twice as much as the national average, and e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product by teens statewide and in El Paso County. The Business Journal published an in-depth look at youth vaping in the Dec. 14, 2018, issue.
Companies that produce e-cigarettes are marketing to teens with ads conveying that it’s cool to vape and that e-cigs are healthier than smoking.
The law was intended to address social norms that determine whether kids begin to smoke.
“Policies such as this that further eliminate vaping are changing that social norm,” said Dacia Hudson, program manager of the Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership at El Paso County Public Health. “If kids go to a restaurant and see someone using an electronic device, it becomes normal.”
Evidence shows that strong smoke-free policies reduce the likelihood that young people will start smoking, according to the state health department.
Although vaping is portrayed as safe, “there is significant risk to kids who use vapes,” Hudson said. “We learned with Healthy Kids Colorado data that only 20 percent thought it was risky.”
Research is ongoing about the health consequences of e-cigarettes, but the American Lung Association is troubled by evidence about their impact on the lungs.
According to the association’s website, these devices are infused with chemicals including propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin that are toxic to cells. They produce other dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde that can cause lung and cardiovascular disease, and they contain acrolein, a herbicide that is linked to acute lung injury, asthma and lung cancer.
The program Hudson heads is intended to help adult and youths quit tobacco, which is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco.
“We provide education and cessation support, and work to raise awareness about tobacco-free schools,” she said. “We also work with businesses and organizations to help them adopt smoke-free policies. … We do have some businesses that want to be entirely smoke-free.”
The law also is intended to protect workers from vapor products and secondhand smoke, said Alison Reidmohr, tobacco communications strategist with the state health department.
A report from the U.S. Surgeon General concluded in 2016 that secondhand e-cig emissions contain nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical that has been linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals including nickel, tin and lead.
The new regulations “give workers the right to breathe clean air” and protect people entering and leaving buildings, Reidmohr said.
Before the changes, hotels and motels could designate up to 20 percent of their rooms as smoking rooms.
“Hotel workers previously were exposed,” Reidmohr said. “These changes should reduce that.”
The new law also is intended to protect customers and service industry employees at restaurants and bars.
In statewide surveys, Coloradans commonly reported that the area outside the door to a building is the place where they are most frequently exposed to secondhand smoke.
Furthermore, studies show that a person who is smoking may have to move as far away as 25 feet to completely avoid exposure to secondhand smoke in an outdoor area.
The regulations apply to “any business that creates a public indoor or outdoor place,” including restaurants, bars, stores and offices, Reidmohr said.
There are a few exceptions; cigar bars, tobacco and vape retail shops, marijuana tasting rooms and outbuildings that meet certain requirements are exempt.
Zan Wagner, general manager of the Radisson Hotel Colorado Springs Airport, said the new regulations will not affect his hotel, which has been smoke-free for almost two decades and warns that guests are subject to a $250 fine if they’re caught smoking in their rooms.
“The Radisson corporation dictates no smoking in rooms,” Wagner said, adding that most of the bigger hotel chains no longer allow smoking.
“A hotel room is such a confined environment, the smell is hard to get rid of,” he said.
Some hotels have designated outdoor smoking areas for guests and employees that are outside the 25-foot limit, he said.
Occasionally, guests will be disappointed because they cannot vape in the hotel’s restaurant.
“For the most part, our guests are very understanding,” he said. “They go outside when they need to smoke. We do get people who call and get upset, saying they are having a super hard time finding a hotel that will allow them to smoke. It sure is a much easier sell when people call and say, ‘I need a nonsmoking room.’”
Wagner, vice president of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association, said the new regulations will have a greater effect on nonfranchised and budget hotels, especially extended-stay properties.
The extended smoke-free zone around entrances “creates a lot of issues for us,” said Kenline of the Rodeway Inn. “It’s unenforceable on South Nevada Avenue. People are inconsiderate about lighting up in public.”
Kenline said guests already ignore the regulations and fire up cigarettes in nonsmoking rooms.
“It would be a major privacy invasion to keep that from occurring,” he said. “You suspect smoking, and we sometimes find cigarette butts in the trash cans.”
The regulations also affect employees who smoke, Kenline said.
His small hotel has one front-desk person who can’t get too far away from phones for a cigarette break.
“There are going to have to be some modifications,” he said.
“My personal opinion,” Kenline added, “is if you own a business, you should be able to do what you want. If you post it, guests should be able to decide whether to stay at your establishment or not.
“I have always felt it shouldn’t be mandated, but things are changing, and those are the times we are in.”