Town, school look to snuff out ‘Smoker’s Corner’
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado
On any given school day, a gathering of students on the corner of Christianson Avenue and Second Street in Granby, across from the high school, shares camaraderie enjoyed through a daily nicotine fix.
Dubbed “Smoker’s Corner,” tobacco users, some underage, puff away before and after school, and during lunch and other breaks. Sometimes, as many as 20 smokers under the age of 18 are found on the private and public corner, which is located along bus routes of middle school and elementary-school students.
It’s for this influential exposure to younger students, the litter of cigarette butts, drink containers and other refuse at Smoker’s Corner, and the overall message of health that Middle Park High School administrators, the Granby Police Department and the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition aim to discourage Smoker’s Corner through a new town law.
A draft ordinance slated to be presented to Granby town board members on April 27 notes a $25 fine for violators of underage smoking in town. The municipal court would have the option to waive penalties in lieu of public service and/or smoking cessation classes, said Granby Police Chief Bill Housley.
Both Housley and Middle Park High School Principal Jane Harmon say they’ve received complaint calls from community members about Smoker’s Corner, which has existed for decades.
Community members and residents who live near the corner complain not only about the litter, but occasionally of the conduct of students. One time they students were throwing rocks into the city street, Housley said, and occasionally students clog the walkway, blocking other pedestrians.
Currently, the town operates under a state law that cites underage smoking as illegal.
But because there are no penalties attached to the state law, there is little reason to issue tickets to violators, according to Housley.
Smoking on school grounds, however, is enforceable. The school has suspended a few students every year for possession of tobacco products, according to Harmon, but does not have the ability to police students off school grounds; thus the strategic location of Smoker’s Corner.
The town’s law would create a ticketable offense also for students who have tobacco on school premises.
“We think it’s a good opportunity to create a safe environment for all of our kids,” Harmon said. In the town where she was formerly employed, a similar town law had been adopted, she said.
“We saw a dramatic decrease in tobacco violations at school,” she said.
According to the police chief, the law would also to apply to other public areas where underage smokers gather, such as the town skate park.
In Colorado each year, tobacco use claims 4,300 lives and costs $1.31 billion in health care bills, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Currently, 14.6 percent of the state’s high school students smoke, and 20,100 youngsters try cigarettes for the first time each year.
As part of the Campaign’s “Kick Butts” program, schools throughout Colorado took part in a “Kick Butts Day” on March 24.
Led by school counselor Kate Walker at Middle Park High School that day, some students received free turkey sandwiches for pledging to quit using tobacco “cold turkey.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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