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Aspen homeless shelter questions smoking ban proposal

Apr 21, 2015

Credit Wikimedia Commons

There’s opposition to a smoking ban at a cluster of Aspen’s health buildings. Smoking bans in public places are common, especially in locations where people get medical treatment. Such a prohibition is proposed for Aspen Valley Hospital, a nearby Senior Center, and the Pitkin County Schultz Health and Human Services Building next door.

The latter is home to the Aspen Homeless Shelter, and people there are concerned about unintended consequences from a smoking ban.  “To be very clear, nobody in my organization is promoting smoking,” says Vince Savage, the Shelter’s Executive Director. “The problem is, addicted people may continue to try to do that regardless of whether or not it’s good for them.”

One side effect from banning lighting up could be to drive away people who are supposed to benefit from services at the Shelter.  “Our primary mission is to keep people from succombing to the weather, through sickness or even death or going hungry,” explains Savage. Not to mention helping homeless residents get a hot shower, clean clothes and even find a job. “So, you know, stopping smoking comes way down the list as our urgent priorities.”

The Pitkin County Board of Commissioners will take up the smoking ban proposal during a work session today.