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Legislature again flicks away smoking ban

Publication Date: 7/5/2011
  • Author:GAIL BURKHARDT
  • Publication:Brownsville (TX) Herald

A sixth attempt to limit secondhand smoke in public places died last week in the Texas Legislature, causing disappointment for smoke-free advocates and relief for some business owners and patrons.

Texas House Bill 46 and its sister legislation, Senate Bill 28, which would have eliminated smoking in most indoor public places, did not make it to a vote by the time the special session ended Wednesday.

 State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, introduced the measure as a way to cut Medicaid costs associated with treating medical problems caused by secondhand smoke, including low birth weight, asthma and coronary heart disease.

 According to a memo provided by Crownover’s office, John S. O’Brien, the director of the legislative budget board, estimated a statewide smoking ban could save the state $13 million in costs for Medicaid and the state employee healthcare system in the 2012-13 fiscal year. He also estimated it would save an additional $18 million that the federal government contributes to Medicaid. The total Medicaid budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $40.6 billion.

 Several local bar managers, owners and patrons said they would not support a law that would limit smoking to only outdoor areas of bars.

 Some nonsmokers at Smokin’ Aces, 2518 E. Business Highway 83 in Mission, on Tuesday night said they respected the right to smoke in bars. They said smoking should be prohibited in restaurants but permitted in bars.

 "It’s not respectful of everyone’s wishes" to have a statewide smoking ban, said nonsmoker Bob Jones, who was visiting Texas from Arizona, which has a statewide ban.

 Gilbert Garcia, general manager of Smokin’ Aces, said that if such a ban were to be implemented, he would be prepared to limit smoking to the outdoor patio.

 "It wouldn’t affect us that much. (We would) probably get in more people," he said, explaining that many people come to his venue for the entertainment.