Tobacco Education Center

Boulder Enforcement Testimonial (2002)
P.O. Box 791
1300 Canyon Blvd. Boulder, Colorado 80306
(303) 441-3239

March 12, 2002

Mayor Ray Martinez and City Council
City of Ft. Collins
PO Box 580
Fort Collins, CO 80522

Re: The City of Boulder=s Smoking in Public Places Ordinance

This letter discusses the city of Boulder's experiences with enforcing the Smoking in Public Places Ordinance, passed by the voters in November of 1995. The ordinance essentially prohibits smoking in all places of work, retail stores, all restaurants and bars (except in physically separate, independently ventilated rooms that meet specific criteria), and other public areas. The only exemptions are private dwellings, private functions not open to the public, tobacco stores, and the physically separate, independently ventilated smoking permitted areas in bars and restaurants.

This has been a very popular ordinance in Boulder, especially after the business community found that profits were not negatively impacted. Building owners also found that cleaning costs decreased since smoking was prohibited in office and retail buildings. Restaurant managers mentioned that prohibiting smoking is easier than having a smoking permitted section. Seating is less complicated than having both a smoking and non-smoking section. Usually, the non-smoking customers don't stay at the table for long periods of time after finishing the meal, so the restaurant managers find they can serve more customers in an evening.

There are advantages to the business community if the municipality passes and enforces the law. Everyone has to play by the same rules, so customers choose who to patronize based on other considerations, such as price and service. If an ordinance is passed but no educational or enforcement program takes place for the first six months, continued compliance will be unlikely. After the first six months, an ordinance requires minimal education and enforcement resources.

A personal observation from one of the enforcement officers: "People frequently come up to us and quietly thank us for this ordinance and the enforcement efforts. The people who oppose the ordinance are vocal, the supporters are quieter, but the appreciation is there -- and, the opposition wears out after a while."

Of more than 300 eating and drinking establishments in the city of Boulder, the Environmental Enforcement Office receives complaints on only five or six bars that consistently allow customers to disregard the ordinance. We have not received a complaint about a restaurant being in violation for more than four years. Approximately every nine months to a year, we receive a call about someone allowing smoking in a place of work. One educational visit has always taken care of this type of complaint.

The Environmental Enforcement Office is charged with the responsibility for enforcing this ordinance. There are currently two full-time Environmental Enforcement Officers and one 3/4 time Environmental Aide in the department. The enforcement officers are commissioned peace officers who carry guns and issue summonses. When checking for compliance in the bars, Environmental Enforcement Officers usually include police officers in the enforcement team for support. Several Boulder Police Officers also enforce the Smoking Ordinance while performing routine bar checks.

The ordinance originally met with vocal opposition but passed with a substantial margin when put to a public vote. The first six months after the ordinance passed were difficult for enforcement officers. There were vocal opponents who were reluctant to come into compliance with the code. Enforcement officers spent approximately 30 hours per week educating bar and restaurant staff about the requirements of the ordinance. Several summonses were issued to proprietors of recalcitrant establishments. There were few complaints about (or from) retail stores and places of work.

Approximately six months after the ordinance passed, the call load dramatically decreased from 10 to 20 calls per day to approximately two calls per week about the ordinance. The Smoking in Public Places Ordinance currently takes less than one hour per month for administration and enforcement. This enforcement consists of walking through the five or six bars where patrons consistently violate the ordinance and issuing summonses to violators.

If anyone has any questions or would like more information, please feel free to call me at (303) 441-4239 or e-mail to: Also, if an ordinance passes and the enforcement officers would like advice about educational materials and enforcement techniques, please have them call.


Terry Steinborn
Environmental Enforcement Officer
City of Boulder, Colorado