Aspen smoking ban plan stirs debate over private property rights

The right to light up in the privacy of one’s own home seems headed for a heated court battle in Aspen after a homeowners’ association last week voted to explore imposing a smoking ban in the wake of a series of small fires in flowerpots at the complex and another blaze at a different complex that destroyed 10 apartments last month.

Ninety-two units at Aspen’s Centennial complex are privately owned, according to a story in The Aspen Daily News, so the association’s 5-1 vote to draft a smoking ban would set a dangerous precedent, some residents argued, taking the complex down a slippery slope of infringing on private property rights.

But the president of the association and the Aspen fire marshal argued there is already precedence for the move, set by a fourplex in Golden, and that smoking has moved from a mere annoyance to a public-safety issue. Last month, Aspen’s Castle Ridge complex banned smoking after a cigarette sparked a blaze that destroyed 10 units, but those apartments are all rentals and therefore subject to the rules and regs of the owners who imposed the ban.

Given that Aspen is known as Glitter Gulch, where the liberal elite often convene to debate civil liberties or the need to take them away (often while lighting up some sort of combustible substance in the privacy of posh hotel rooms and McMansions), the case of a pending smoking ban on private homes is sure to draw plenty of national scrutiny. Meanwhile, a few snarky homeowners, according to the Daily News, suggested banning flowerpots instead of smoking.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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