Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

New smoking ban passed

In the end, the vote wasn’t close.

The City Council voted today to extend Houston’s indoor smoking ban to bars but to continue allowing smoking in outdoor patios and in bars that promote cigar smoking and derive significant revenue from tobacco sales.

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. The only dissenters were council members Addie Wiseman and Michael Berry, who had said previously that they opposed any extension of the ban and that the decision on whether to allow smoking should be up to individual businesses.

The council rejected several amendments that would have weakened the ordinance or extended its reach. The only amendment approved expands the ban to include meetings of nonprofit organizations at their own facilities. Such functions would have been exempt from the ban under White’s original proposal.

The new rules take effect next September.

Given how contentious this all seemed a week ago, that’s a pretty big win for Council Member Carol Alvarado and Mayor White. Whatever they did to build consensus on this, it worked.

The council had appeared divided on the issue since White proposed his ordinance two weeks ago, but united behind it after a week of lobbying and testimony from interests on both sides, notably anti-smoking activists and bar owners who feared a ban would hurt their businesses.

I got several pieces of mail about the new ordinance this week, all from different groups, and all in favor of expanding the ban. If the anti-ban folks had a lobbying effortm going, they didn’t see fit to stuff my mailbox. Anybody else get mail on this?

Full voting on the ordinance and related amendments is here. This sidebar story on national trends makes an interesting point.

Houston’s decision could affect how state lawmakers approach the issue, said Joe Cherner, an expert on the smoking-ban movement and founder of BREATHE – Bar and Restaurant Employees Advocating Together for a Healthy Environment.

“If Houston passes a strong law, Texas will pass a law within a year,” he predicted, based on how other states have reacted to bans by their largest cities.

Council Member Jarvis Johnson mentioned a statewide ban when he spoke to me about this last week. I’ll be interested to see if any member of the Lege champions this next year.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

9 Comments

  1. flo swanger says:

    i smoke and its a violation of my rights to be told not to

  2. i smoke and its a violation of my rights to be told not to

    Flo, I think the social contract theory that states that your right to smoke ends at my lungs is relevant here. If you weren’t harming others, there’d be no political will to bring this into force.

    I’ve worked in bars running sound for bands. I welcome this. Smoke outside, smoke at home, but don’t smoke in my workplace. Workplace laws on safety almost never have clauses that say “Do this safety thing unless you really, really don’t want to.”

  3. Keith G says:

    I smoke very rarely (it interferes with my morning jog through Montrose), but I have problems with this ban. Tho’ I am a liberal, I never have been a fan of the nanny state.

    Smoking harms people, so does alcohol, so do double meat Whoppers (more than smoking), and so do guns. I get nervous when do gooders endeavor to protect the public (read that as themselves and their kids) from the public harm du jur.

    Why not just regulate it. Let proprietors decide. Let customers and workers vote with their feet. Let the fees from “smoking licenses” fund anti-smoking programs.

    I heard one of the proponents of the ban tell a reporter, that the ban was all about public health. Wouldn’t a fast food tax be more effective in that regard?

    Weird.

  4. I heard one of the proponents of the ban tell a reporter, that the ban was all about public health. Wouldn’t a fast food tax be more effective in that regard?

    You’re misunderstanding the principle. If you eat a bacon double cheeseburger, I don’t get arteriosclerosis. But when you smoke, it can and does have a deleterious effect on whoever is near you. That’s the public health angle, also framed as a workplace health issue since anyone who toils in a smoky bar is affected.

    I certainly understand why people have objections to this approach – I’m still ambivalent about it, even though I support the general principle – but the fast food and alcohol comparisons are inapt.

  5. Mathwiz says:

    The council rejected several amendments that would have weakened the ordinance or extended its reach. The only amendment approved expands the ban to include meetings of nonprofit organizations at their own facilities.

    The one approved amendment surprises me. So now a (hypothetical) smokers’ rights NGO in Houston is required to ban smoking during its own annual meeting at its own headquarters? That seems to go somewhat beyond the stated goals of protecting the public and protecting employees from involuntary passive smoking.

    Other than that weirdness, though, this ordinance is a good common-sense compromise. I’m glad that it passed, and that Houston’s done with the issue.

  6. Keith G says:

    Inapt? The couple killed by a drunk driver last night, didn’t choose to be near a person who was/had been drinking.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, tho. It’s just that my spidey sense goes off as I detect people (mostly yuppies) taking exception to the well established behaviors of others.

    As I said earlier, I have lived in Montrose since 1988 and I notice this quite a bit.

    Peace,

  7. Jenna says:

    What about the night life businesses that bring customers and money to the area. Several things are unhealthly per say but they will not be banned. This city speaks about the mom and pop stores being put out of business and how we should stand behind our community. Where are they now? This ban does not affect larger businesses as harshly as it does the smaller ones. I believe that this ban is another double standard, just as it is without it. Before the ban, if you do not want to be around smoke, stay home. After the ban, if you smoke, stay home because you can not smoke in public. Car crashes, war and poverty kill will kill more people this year than smoking will in 5, but yes it is unreasonable to ban these things. It’s simpy a way of life that we have grown accustomed to. Thanks for letting me vent and have a great day!!

  8. David Lawrence says:

    “If you eat a bacon double cheeseburger, I don’t get arteriosclerosis”

    Sorry Charlie, but the cases are similar. If I get sick from eating cheeseburgers, you will be paying more in insurance, hospital taxes, etc. You can make just as valid a case for eliminating cheese as you can for tobacco. I know you will roll your eyes and claim that this is some far-reaching nonsense, but remember, that is what all of us smokers said a month ago.

  9. […] Antonio is approximately where Houston was before it passed a more extensive smoking ban back in 2006. That was done after Austin voted to adopt a tougher anti-smoking ordinance in 2005; numerous other […]