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News Summary

Despite wide support, bid to ban smoking is flagging

Publication Date: 2011-05-11
  • Author:Bill King
  • Publication:Houston Chronicle

Two people who are trying to do something about the issue are state Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. Each has authored bills in their respective houses that would ban smoking statewide in most public places, and specifically in bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, both bills are struggling to run the legislative gantlet and time is rapidly running out. Ellis emailed me this week saying, "The clock is ticking … 70 percent of Texans want a statewide smoking ban. … [W]e will keep fighting until the last day of session to get this done now."

Many cities have already adopted smoking bans in public venues like bars and restaurants. Studies have consistently shown that there is no reduction in business when such bans are adopted. This may explain why many industry groups like the Texas Restaurant Association have joined in supporting the ban. Of course, the ban is universally supported by public health groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and many more. In fact, the only organized opposition is from, you guessed it, the tobacco industry.

Study after study has shown the serious and deleterious effects of second-hand smoke. Yet we continue to allow smokers to literally blow their poison in our faces under the demented justification that if we do not like it we can go somewhere else or even the more twisted logic that those working in bars and restaurants that allow smoking can get a job somewhere else. Can you imagine anyone suggesting that refinery workers are not entitled to workplace safety, and that if they do not like their working conditions they can go get a job somewhere else?

We constantly complain about rising health care costs, as health insurance premiums spiral upward and public health facilities weigh heavier and heavier on property taxpayers. And yet, we cannot take even the most obvious and minimal step of banning poison from being released in public spaces. Hopefully, the Legislature will take enough time away from the emergencies of tort reform, sonograms and sanctuary cities to consider if, just perhaps, we should actually do something about protecting our young peoples' health and reducing our health care costs.

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