January 25, 2008
Countywide smoking ban proposed

As you may recall, one of the arguments against the expanded smoking ban that the city of Houston passed last year was that watering holes out near unincorporated areas would be put at a disadvantage. Well, it looks like the candidates for County Judge all favor doing away with that imbalance.

Harris County government chief Ed Emmett said Wednesday night he favors a smoking ban in all public areas of the county, and his Republican primary election challenger, Charles Bacarisse, agreed.

Both said getting the Legislature to grant the county the power to enact such a ban would be difficult. But Emmett and Bacarisse, the former county district clerk, said that limiting tobacco smoking to homes and other private areas would be a boost for public health.

"I have become pretty adamant about not wanting to be in the vicinity of a closed area where somebody else is smoking, and the fact that your office building is 100 yards outside the city limits really shouldn't matter," Emmett said.

Bacarisse said he leans to the libertarian philosophy of opposition to government regulation on personal behavior, but that on the public issue of exposure to second-hand smoke, "government should be interventionist."

They spoke at a forum sponsored by the United Republicans of Harris County, which will issue an endorsement in the race next month.


In the Democratic primary, voters will choose between by real estate investor David Mincberg and mortgage broker Ahmad Hassan.

Reached by phone, Mincberg said he would urge a majority of the four commissioners to join him in seeking legislative approval for a smoking ban, and Hassan said he would let voters settle the issue in a referendum.

Assuming that a statewide ban doesn't get passed, the approach favored by Mincberg and the two Republicans looks to be the most promising. It's not clear to me how difficult it would be to get the Lege to allow Harris County to enact its own ban, but I think it would be doable, and ought to have better odds than hoping for a statewide bill to succeed. If nothing else, it's interesting to me that this issue isn't a source of disagreement among the three main contenders. Maybe people just think it'll be harder to get done than it really will be.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2008 to Local politics

How can bars outside of Houston be at a disadvantage? It's legal for the owner to ban smoking at any time. I thought that studies showed there was no disadvantage to banning smoking and that revenue often went up. Sounds to me that the opposite is true and powerful interests in Houston want to use the government to reduce the competition.

Posted by: spyglass on January 25, 2008 7:49 AM

Perhaps I wasn't clear - I'm saying that bars inside the city of Houston but near unincorporated areas were at a disadvantage after the City passed its smoking ban, because it was easy for their patrons to go to the non-City bars. At least, that was their argument. If you accept that argument, then expanding the ban to all of Harris County mitigates that situation.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2008 8:50 AM

OK, I stand corrected. But it still seems to me that the studies that show bars do not lose money with smoking bans are obviously wrong or those bars outside the city limits would be banning smoking on their own since they would be losing money as their patrons flock to the non-smoking bars in Houston. Nor would anybody be complaining about losing patrons to the bars outside of Houston. I think the anti-smoking advocates know that the studies are misleading and cite them anyway. Senator Ellis will be pushing for a state wide ban, and will be citing those same studies, even though the experience in Houston proves otherwise. I find that disingenuous and a sign of zealotry. If the anti-smokers are willing to lie in their "studies" what else are they willing to lie about? Perhaps the dangers of SHS are a lie too.

Posted by: spyglass on January 25, 2008 9:06 AM

If you don't believe the medical and scientific communities on the effects of second hand smoke, maybe you should check out the web page of the largest tobacco company on the planet. They now also agree that SHS is dangerous.
Public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes disease, including lung cancer and heart disease, in non-smoking adults, as well as causes conditions in children such as asthma, respiratory infections, cough, wheeze, otitis media (middle ear infection) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In addition, public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke can exacerbate adult asthma and cause eye, throat and nasal irritation.

PM USA believes that the public should be guided by the conclusions of public health officials regarding the health effects of secondhand smoke in deciding whether to be in places where secondhand smoke is present, or if they are smokers, when and where to smoke around others. Particular care should be exercised where children are concerned, and adults should avoid smoking around them.

We also believe that the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places.

Posted by: Phil on January 25, 2008 1:09 PM

I wouldn't believe the tobacco companies now anymore than I believed them when they had doctors touting cigarettes and anymore than I believe the studies paid for by Big Alcohol claiming drinking is healthy. Besides, it's obvious they were forced to post that info. There are published studies that led me to believe the dangers of SHS are not so certain than you would like us to think, including one by WHO .

I'd like you to answer a question. In your noble efforts to eliminate smoking (and I agree no one should smoke) do you think it's justified to lie with statistics as are done with studies showing no impact on revenue for bars that ban smoking? Clearly, you think banning smoking trumps private property rights. Do you think your goal of sloping smoking justifies lying to people for their own good?

Posted by: spyglass on January 25, 2008 5:42 PM
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