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News Summary

Time for statewide ban on smoking in public places

Publication Date: 2/16/2011
  • Author:LAURA HERMER and PHYLLIS GINGISS
  • Publication:Houston Chronicle

Nearly half of all city-dwelling Texans now enjoy smoke-free indoor public places.

But many others, including most of Texas's rural population, will never have that chance unless the Texas Legislature enacts one of the bills filed this session by Houston Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis or Republican Rep. Myra Crownover of Denton. The smoke-free legislation follows on years of increasingly successful grassroots efforts in cities and towns throughout the state to ensure that Texans have clean indoor air to breathe...

Yet Texas is among a shrinking minority of states that does not offer statewide protection from secondhand smoke in public places.

There has, however, been substantial action at the local level. Before 2000, most Texas residents were protected, if at all, only in municipal buildings. In 2002, El Paso became the first major city in Texas to prohibit smoking in all indoor public places. Austin became the second in 2005. In 2006, Houston, Laredo, Beaumont and Abilene went smoke-free, along with several smaller municipalities such as Baytown and Victoria. Eighteen more Texas municipalities went smoke-free between 2007 and 2011, including Dallas, Plano, Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

In all, 29 Texas municipalities are entirely smoke-free. This includes all of the largest cities in the state.

Nearly half of city-dwelling Texans now live in a smoke-free city or town. But many others do not.

In particular, the nearly 25 percent of Texans who live in rural or unincorporated areas will never enjoy smoke-free indoor public places, save through the enactment of statewide law.

The substantial public support already demonstrated at the grassroots level indicates the time may be ripe for major change at the state level to ensure all Texas residents receive secondhand-smoke protection. Changes in our smoke-free local laws reflect a widespread will and citizen commitment for change across Texas to protect all of our state's residents from secondhand smoke.

This momentum should be taken into consideration as the Texas Legislature weighs proposed smoke-free legislation.