Colorado Rights Blog

Guest blogger By: Guest blogger 11.17.2014

Denver Post Letter to the Editor: Should smoking be banned on Denver’s 16th Street Mall?

(Written by ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes and published in the November 16 Denver Post)

Protecting public health is certainly not the only, or even the main, motivation behind the proposed smoking ban on the 16th Street Mall. Rather, police would gain another tool of selective enforcement to target, harass and ultimately displace the homeless population from downtown.

Across the state, new laws are being added every day to push people living in poverty out of sight and on to other communities. Boulder officials brag openly that they used a similar smoking ban to drive the homeless population out of its downtown municipal campus.

Smoking bans are particularly troublesome because of their outsized impact on people with mental illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, 31 percent of cigarettes are consumed by adults who suffer from mental illness.

Laws targeting homeless and vulnerable populations purport to outlaw behavior, but in reality they outlaw people and deny those individuals the dignity and personal liberty that every person deserves.

Denise Maes, Denver




  • Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley spoke at the marriage equality rally on March 3rd

  • Leisel Kemp, whose brother Jason was killed by CSP after they entered his home without a warrant, spoke at the 2013 Bill of Rights Dinner about the ACLU’s legal advocacy on behalf of her family.

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind is an original short film from the ACLU of Colorado about a man who has spent 17 years in solitary confinement and now suffers from debilitating mental illness.