The Denver City Council decided a smoking ban in public right-of-ways surrounding hospitals will stand, despite sharp criticism from neighbors and challenges with enforcement.
Two years ago, Denver became one of the first cities in the country to prohibit smoking on sidewalks, alleys and lawns surrounding hospitals.
“You had to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to the entrance,” said Carol Boigon, the councilwoman behind the ordinance.
“The hospitals are very happy with the ban. It helps them manage their problem,” said Boigon.
But Al Herbel lives next door to Porter Adventist Hospital, where he said the ban simply moved the smoke from the hospital’s front door to his.
“It seems that the people who smoke just do not have any regard for the people who live in this area,” said Herbel. “It just doesn’t make any difference to them.”
Hospitals acknowledged challenges with neighborhood impact, enforcing the law and lack of awareness, but they said they have worked to address the issues.
“It takes a while,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, director of Denver Public Health. “We oftentimes have to point to the [no smoking] sign, and people are smoking underneath it. And they say ‘Oh yeah, yeah.’”
“They’re doing a little better,” said Herbel.
He said Porter now sends a maintenance man every day to sweep up the cigarette butts, but as the council makes the ban permanent, he wants them to know the issues.
“There’s still a lot of room for improvement,” he said.
Smoking in a prohibited area carries a $300 fine.
Boigon said she will be working with hospitals to add more signs and increase awareness on the issue.