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Still smoking in San Antonio

But maybe not for much longer.

San Antonio City Councilman Justin Rodriguez announced [last] Friday that he is sponsoring an ordinance to outlaw smoking in most public places, including all bars, restaurants and workplaces.

Rodriguez said San Antonio is one of the largest cities in the country without legislation to protect the public from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

“We recently missed out on federal funding because we’re not a smoke-free city,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so important to the future of our community.”

Rodriguez said the new ordinance would close any loopholes in existing anti-smoking laws.

The City Council passed an ordinance in 2003, which a group called the Smoke-Free San Antonio Coalition does not believe went far enough.

“There have been certain criteria that you could have smoking allowed in (some businesses),” said coalition chair Suzanne Lozano, who’s also a registered nurse.

San 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 cities including Dallas and Galveston have since followed suit. Given how common this is now, I don’t suppose it had even occurred to me that San Antonio had lagged behind on this. I expect this to pass fairly easily when it comes to a vote, but there is some opposition on Council.

[City Council member John] Clamp argues that “the market is working,” and banning smoking in San Antonio could push businesses to other municipalities in Bexar County. Customers can choose to go to other places, he said.

But Rodriguez agues that employees can’t.

“I don’t think folks have a choice to work in a smoking or nonsmoking establishment,” he said. “They go where the jobs are.”

Clamp disagrees.

“I think everybody has a choice on where to work,” he said. “If you really think second-hand smoke is bad for you, don’t work in a bar.”

More regulations will hurt business, Clamp said.

“They’ll have to lay off some of their wait staff, for sure,” he said. “If you’re not bringing in enough money, then you’ll have to lay people off.”

Sounds an awful lot like Houston’s debate, with Rodriguez playing the part of then-Council member and smoking ban advocate Carol Alvarado, and Clamp filling in for Michael Berry or Addie Wiseman. Seems to me you could check on Houston’s experience to measure Clamp’s claims if you wanted to. The Houston Press did an informal survey of bars and live music venues in 2007, which suggested it was mostly no big deal, but that’s the last I recall hearing about it. Which is kind of suggestive in itself – if there were a trend of places closing or relocating to less-restrictive unincorporated Harris County, you’d think there’d have been more news about it. My suspicion is that San Antonio’s experience will be like Houston’s, including how the passage of the ordinance plays out. Queblog has more.

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  1. justus says:

    yeah…pretty much. Once they get over it, even smokers acknowledge that its kinda nice to be able to go home and not completely reek of tobacco, they just need to get the measure passed and people will realize its really not that much a pain to go outside to light up….

  2. Aquaria says:

    What are you folks on about?

    There are few restaurants and bars in San Antonio where smoking is permitted, and even then smokers are relegated to small sections of the establishments, often outdoors. Indoors, at restaurants, anyway, they’re walled off from everyone else.

    I’d rather the smokers be consigned to their own area than have them standing outside and creating a cloud I must go through to get inside.

    Finally, we non-smokers hold sway over most places in San Antonio after the last ban, so must we take every single establishment from smokers? Are we really so selfish that we can’t let them have any places at all to do their thing? Honestly, it seems like 90% of the 3 am customers @ the Jim’s on Perrin Beitel & 410 are smokers. Why take that from them when there are other Jim’s restaurants only a mile from that one if you want something to eat at that hour?

    I just don’t get how we became so all-or-nothing.

  3. […] As we know, the city of San Antonio is working on updating its ordinance that restricts smoking. The first draft of that has emerged from committee, and it’s got some teeth to it. The strengthened recommendations, which will be considered in August by the Quality of Life Committee before heading to the full council later in the month, now include banning smoking in several public spaces, including the San Antonio Zoo, the River Walk, Alamo and Main plazas, parks and outdoor stadiums. […]

  4. […] proposal to strengthen the smoking ban in San Antonio has drawn protest from a previously silent […]