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Statewide smoking ban still on tap

Now that every major city in Texas has an ordinance that bans smoking in most public places, attention turns to the Lege where another attempt will be made next year to pass a similar ban.

Similar legislation died in the waning days of the 2009 Legislature despite the support of cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and an aggressive push by a statewide coalition of public-health organizations. Proponents couldn’t overcome opposition from conservative free-enterprise groups that denounced the ban as government intrusion into private property rights

Spokesmen for the coalition, Smoke-Free Texas, said Wednesday that supporters are preparing to reintroduce the measure in the 2011 Legislature, convening in January, while conceding that they face the same obstacles.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who co-authored the Senate version of the bill in 2009, said she is eager to resume that role in 2011.

“We’re as vibrant and strong as ever,” said James Gray, government relations director for the American Cancer Society, one of the member groups of Smoke-Free Texas. “We’re a group that’s not going away until it’s done.”

But Peggy Venable, Texas director of Americans for Prosperity, said opposition forces are equally determined to deliver another knockout if the bill resurfaces.

“We’re concerned about it — not because we want to encourage more people to smoke, but because we care about property rights and individual freedoms,” said Venable, a nonsmoker and breast cancer survivor.

I generally don’t strain myself trying to understand the thinking of the Free Market Fairy people, but even taking that into account, I don’t quite get this. As noted in the story, one complaint about the municipal approach is that bars and restaurants on or close the a city’s boundaries may find themselves competing with joints that are outside the city’s limits and thus not subject to the same rules. You’d think that getting a uniform standard would be appealing, and given that the Americans for Prosperity crowd isn’t actively working to repeal the existing municipal bans – to the best of my recollection, these groups weren’t involved in the local debates, at least not in Houston and San Antonio – legislative action is the logical course. Not for them, I guess. Anyway, given all the other things that will be happening next year it’s hard to say what the odds of success are, but the battle will be joined.

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