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City Council Unanimously Passes Smoking Ban On 16th Street Mall

By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4) - Visitors to the 16th Street Mall will soon have to leave their smoking tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaporizers at home.

The Denver City Council unanimously approved a smoking ban Monday night. That means no one can smoke or vape within 50 feet of the outdoor mall, and face up to a $100 fine if they do.

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City Council President Albus Brooks is behind what he calls the "Breathe Easy" campaign.

The proposal comes after he said numerous people complained about smoking and second-hand smoke along the outdoor mall.

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However, some homeless advocates believe the smoking ban is really a smokescreen.

"It's not about people breathing well," Benjamin Dunning, organizer with Denver Homeless Out Loud, told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann. "It's an attack to get some people out of sight. We believe this is directly targeting the homeless. We believe this is about image."

That concern was discussed during the city council meeting Monday, especially when it comes to enforcement.

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"I just want to be absolutely sure that those who decide not to take that stroll [50 feet away], either due to obstinance or ignorance, are warned or ticketed without regard as to whether they are 17th street lawyers, conventioneers in town from LA or New York, or those who are on the streets because they have no home," Councilman Paul Kashmann said.

Kashmann also proposed the unanimously approved amendment that will require Denver Police to regularly report to council with information of who is being cited.

Deputy Police Chief David Quinones addressed the council, saying the smoking ban will be treated like other civil violations.

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"Our first preference is a verbal advisement," Quinones said. "Really it's going to be the responses that we get from the people we advise that may dictate going to the next step, which could be a written warning or then the citation. The citation would be the last course of action we'd like to see."

Council President Brooks assured council and those attending the meeting that, unlike smoking outside a hospital or municipal building, smoking on the 16th Street Mall is not a criminal violation.

The new ban makes smoking or vaping on the mall a civil infraction.

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Still, opponents like Dunning believe this is just continued effort by the city to push the homeless away.

"In every city we've seen this ordinance put into place, the homeless community has been the one that's targeted," Dunning said. "They're the ones getting tickets. We think Denver can do better."

More than 4,500 other cities across the U.S. have similar bans in place along pedestrian malls.

The new smoking ban goes into effect December 1 in all public areas on 16th Street from Broadway to Chestnut Place.

RELATED: Vote Expected On Proposed Smoking Ban On 16th Street Mall

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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