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Boise's Anti-Smoking Ordinance Changes More Than a Few Habits

"I think we're officially breaking the law."

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Chris Fish and Aaron Smith bundled up, abandoned their drinks, headed for the exit, ascended a flight of stairs, hung a sharp right along the 10th Street sidewalk and stopped a few feet shy of the alley between Main and Idaho streets.

Then they lit up.

"I think we're officially breaking the law," Fish said.

Boise Police officers did not descend on this possible crime scene outside of 10th Street Station on a recent Saturday night. Nor did police patrol any of the other possible crime scenes Fish and Smith created as they blew plumes of smoke from places that are now off limits to tobacco addicts and aficionados.

In fact, BW spoke to numerous smokers who said they have skirted, ignored or found loopholes in the city ordinance that went into effect on Jan. 2, banning smoking in bars, private clubs, on patios and near transit areas. City parks are also smoke free under the law, minus a few designated smoking areas in Ann Morrison and Julia Davis parks.

The ban has smokers lighting up in creative ways and changing where they hang--a trend that's boosted some businesses' bottom lines while putting others on shaky ground.

"Times have been kind of tough," said Ryan Murphy, bartender at 10th Street Station. "We've seen a significant drop in overall sales."

Murphy said the ban has already cost at least one 10th Street Station employee her job, due to a lack of business.

"On the other hand, Garden City is adding staff," he said.

Boise Police offered smokers 30 days of grace before clamping down on public puffing in restricted areas. BPD spokesperson Lynn Hightower said officers have received a number of complaints about people smoking along the Greenbelt and other restricted areas. Hightower said the reports usually ended with a warning.

"Most people want to abide by the law," said Hightower.

But rogue smokers said the ban doesn't seem a high police priority. Students still light up in restricted areas of Julia Davis Park across from Boise State, and on a recent Saturday night, police passed smoky congregations near downtown bus stops.

"I haven't seen police," said Daniel Warren as he took a puff off a cigarette, his smoke wafting across the Greenbelt and toward the Morrison Center.

Other smokers have taken refuge in Garden City.

"Business is through the roof," said Ranch Club bartender Nick Payne. "And we're lobbying real hard to keep it that way. I see a lot of new faces tonight."

Meanwhile, patrons said it wasn't the air that brings them to the bars--rather it's nice weather, a decent band, good friends and thirst for liberation (or libation) that usually overrides air-quality standards. And some smokers said that no matter what, they'll remain loyal to their old hangouts.

"Am I going to go to Garden City to smoke? Fuck that! I don't want to smoke that bad," Smith said.

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