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Texas Once Again to Consider a Statewide Smoking Ban

Publication Date: 12/19/2014
  • Publication:New York Times

A decision by the Paris City Council in March to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants, angered Brent McKee. A restaurant owner, Mr. McKee was thinking about the customers who enjoyed a cigarette or two while nursing their morning coffee.

"I built this with my blood and sweat, and then they come in and they tell me what I can and cannot do? That upset me," he said of the ban.

Now, Mr. McKee reluctantly acknowledges a change of heart.

"I'm glad it happened, I guess," he said last week. "Everybody says it smells so much better. It hurts the business in the morning time with the coffee and the smokers, but the rest of the day, everybody who wouldn't come in here will come in here now."

Next year, Texas lawmakers will again consider a statewide ban on smoking in public places. It will be the fifth legislative session in a row in which such a measure has been proposed. More than 100 Texas cities -- encompassing nearly half of the state population -- have moved on their own, enacting some sort of ban on smoking in public places in an effort to reduce secondhand smoke exposure, according to state records.

"I think eventually Texas is going to pass smoke-free laws," said Cam Scott, senior director of government relations with Smoke-Free Texas. "It's just a matter of when." (Smoke-Free Texas has been a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.)

Nationally, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have comprehensive smoking bans, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. Most cities in Texas with bans have carved out exceptions for certain businesses like bars. Thirty-six cities, including eight of the 10 largest, have comprehensive ordinances that ban smoking in all public workplaces, according to state records. A handful of cities have adjusted their ordinances to include electronic cigarettes.

State Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat who has filed a smoking ban bill ahead of next month's session, said movement at the local level was encouraging, but a statewide ban remained essential....