Cracking Down on Lighting Up in Public

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In 2006, the state government placed a ban on smoking in public places. But the Grand Junction Police Department says two years later, some people still haven't got the message and that they're stepping up efforts to remind people.

From June 20-June 22, six people were arrested and ticketed for smoking in public places. Officials say it's all part of renewed effort to crack down on people who choose to light up in downtown Grand Junction.

Longtime Colorado resident Valor Dodd says he remembers what life was like before 2006, when he would always see people smoking in restaurants, parks, and other places he liked to visit.

"It was pretty annoying," said Dodd. "We'd alway end up moving."

He says life after March of 2006 is much better.

"It doesn't bother us as much," said Dodd. "We're more apt to come to places that might have had smokers before."

That's exactly why the Grand Junction Police Department says it's stepping up efforts to come down on smokers who are ignoring the laws.

"We have our laws in place for a reason," said police spokesperson Kate Porras. "We want to keep Grand Junction a beautiful area."

It's a job left up to the police department's impact team, a group of bike officers whose only responsibility is to patrol the downtown area looking for law breakers.

"We have officers that are able to proactively go out and fight these kinds of crimes," said Porras.

Officials say as more and more people spend time enjoying the summer weather, you can bet that there will be more and more impact officers on the lookout.

"With the nice weather, they're out and about and able to really do a lot of good work," said Porras.

Officials say getting caught lighting up in public is no light matter. Violating a municipal smoking ordinance is a misdemeanor.

"There is a mandatory court appearance and the judge will set the fine," said Porras.

There are some exceptions to the ban. Smoking is allowed in restaurants only on outdoor patios that are at least 15 feet away from the entrance. Smoking is also allowed in specified hotel rooms, tobacco stores, and inside of your personal vehicle.

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