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News Summary

Proponents of a statewide smoking ban try, try again

Publication Date: 3/8/2013
  • Author:Dave Montgomery
  • Publication:Star-Telegram

Undaunted by defeats in three previous legislative sessions, a broad-based coalition of health advocates is re-launching a push for a statewide smoking ban in most public places and indoor worksites.

Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, introduced smoking ban legislation on Friday as lawmakers rushed to meet a deadline to file bills for the 2013 Legislature. Crownover's bill is identical to a measure filed in January by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

The bipartisan legislation is the latest attempt by Smoke-Free Texas to enact a comprehensive statewide policy that would replace a patchwork of diverse smoking restrictions at the local level. The coalition, created in 2006, includes organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.

Crownover and Ellis pushed similar bills in 2007, 2009 and 2011 but consistently faced opposition from conservative groups that denounced the ban as a form of government intrusion into private business. The proposed ban passed the House twice -- in 2007 and 2011 -- but has never come up for debate on the floor of the Senate.

"All we know is there is public support for this," said Claudia Rodas of Houston, a campaign co-manager for Smoke-Free Texas. "We have a lot of momentum, a lot of public support behind us."

Rodas said the ban's supporters have been working to change the outcome in the 2013 session by meeting with lawmakers and urging their constituents to rally behind the proposed legislation. Advocates cite polls showing that more than two-thirds of the public favor an extensive smoking ban.

"Everyone deserves to be able to breathe safe and clean air," said Rodas, who is government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. More than 300 organizations are engaged in the effort, she said.

Rodas said that 32 Texas cities have what her organization considers "strong and comprehensive" ordinances that have essentially the same reach as the proposed statewide ban. Smoking restrictions are also in force in other cities, including Fort Worth and Arlington

The Ellis-Crownover legislation would prohibit smoking in public places, including restaurants, bars (except for outdoor patios), retail establishments, sports arenas, convention centers, theaters, health care facilities, and shopping malls...