October 19, 2006
Smoking ban: Going statewide?

When the new smoking ban was passed, a fellow identified as "an expert on the smoking-ban movement" predicted that the State of Texas would follow suit within a year. I wondered who might spearhead such an effort. Via Houstonist, I now have my answer: State Sen. Rodney Ellis.

Talking with the American Cancer Society and checking laws around the country, we found out as of today 11 states are considered smoke-free.

Louisiana and Hawaii have passed smoke free laws that will soon go into effect. And Puerto Rico falls into that category as well.

“So we ought to do it. I am going to be aggressive with this legislation. I think it should have strong bipartisan support. I hope it gets generated in the debate in this election cycle, in the race for governor,” said Sen. Ellis.

Ellis says tobacco lobbyists will put up a fight.

I'm sure they will. The next question is whether or not the folks who opposed the Houston ban on the grounds that it would make it harder for bars to compete with nearby non-Houston venues will get behind Sen. Ellis' effort. We'll know in a few months.

Here's the longer version of the original Chron story.

The 13-2 vote was a victory for Mayor Bill White, who wanted to extend the ban while leaving some locations available for public smoking.

"I think the public was heard loud and clear that we need to better protect the rights of our employees," he said, noting that the ordinance will reduce workers' exposure to secondhand smoke.


The council had been divided on the issue since White proposed his ordinance two weeks ago, with some members calling for a stricter ban and others pushing to exempt bars.

But the council members, though tense at times during Wednesday's debate, united behind what the administration said was a compromise, with some members saying that any extension of the ban was better than none at all.

"I think a whole lot of people held their nose," said Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck. "It's not the best in any one person's opinion, but it's the best we could come up with."


The council rejected several amendments that would have weakened the ordinance or extended its reach.

An amendment the council approved expands the ban to include meetings of nonprofits at their own facilities. Such functions would have been exempt under White's original proposal, and the approval of the amendment marked the first vote White has lost since he became mayor in 2004.

"Emotions ran strong," White said, "because there are some citizens who think there should be no exceptions."

He said he hopes the Legislature will enact a statewide ban or at least give authority to counties to put smoking restrictions in place.

Councilwoman Carol Alvarado said she was surprised so many members ended up voting for the proposal.

"It wasn't everything, but at least it took us further than we were before," she said.


The panel voted against almost all of Councilwoman Pam Holm's amendments, which would have eliminated the exceptions included in White's proposal - but the votes were close.

The amendment that would have extended the ban to hotels, designated meeting rooms in convention centers and other private functions narrowly failed with a vote of 8-7. The amendment to ban smoking at bars that derive significant revenue from tobacco sales - only a handful of establishments within the city qualify - was rejected 9-6, and the amendment to ban smoking on outdoor patios failed 11-4.

The council also rejected, 11-4, an amendment offered by Councilwoman Toni Lawrence that would have exempted bars from the ban. Councilman Jarvis Johnson submitted an amendment to allow voters to decide the issue next year, but the panel did not consider it because the suggestion was made too late in the process.

I think what we got was pretty reasonable, and I think it says something that after all the debate and delays the final vote was 13-2 in favor. For what it's worth, I would have voted against all three of the amendments that would have extended the ban further, I would have voted against the Lawrence amendment, and I would have voted for the final ordinance. I also would have voted against the amendment to include meetings at nonprofits.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 19, 2006 to Local politics | TrackBack

For what it's worth

Aww, we could have guessed that. I was hoping for a surprise! :)

Posted by: kevin whited on October 19, 2006 7:52 PM