Texas is starting to file bills
Senate Bill 97 – Relating to regulation of the sale, distribution, possession, use, and advertising of vapor products; authorizing a fee; creating offenses.
“Many Texas cities have already banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors because of the potentially harmful health consequences and the habit-forming and addictive nature of e-cigarettes. In A 2012 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide experimented with e-cigarettes. What was once seen as an alternative to help smokers quit, is now seen as a gateway product for minors. S.B. 97 will prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and regulate vapor products consistent with current cigarette and tobacco laws.”
HB 81 — http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/html/HB00081I.htm
Dallas doctor accused over smoking near car
March 29, 2011
A Dallas physician is accused of trying to run over someone he allegedly saw smoking near his car.
Police say 54-year-old Dr. Jeffrey Reed Thompson faces a felony charge of aggravated assault with a vehicle.
Friday’s incident began in a medical office parking garage.
The 48-year-old smoker, Donald Zuelly of Rowlett, told police that Thompson told him he couldn’t smoke in the garage, yanked the cigarette from his mouth, threw it down and stepped on it. Police say Zuelly told the doctor not to touch him and threw down a soft drink can. Some liquid splashed onto the doctor’s pants.
Zuelly says Thompson then hopped into his car and drove at him. Zuelly scraped his arm trying to flee.
Thompson, who’s free on $5,000 bond, did not immediately comment.
Tobacco ban blamed in prison violence
December 6, 2010
A long-standing ban on tobacco in Texas prisons meant to curb smoking-related disease is fueling a black market economy that breeds jailhouse violence and corrupts correctional officers, according to a new study examining inappropriate relationships between guards and inmates.
The study in the December edition of Criminal Justice Studies recommends modifying the 1994 ban to provide designated smoking areas inside state lockups — a move prison officials oppose.
That recommendation and others calling for more security cameras, enhanced opportunities for soon-to-be-released prisoners to interact with family and higher qualifications and pay for guards are based on interviews with 32 prisoners investigated for improper relationships with correctional officers.
The study also looked at sexual interaction between inmates and their keepers, finding that incarcerated males often initiate such affairs — almost always with women — in cynical attempts to manipulate the system. In fiscal 2010, nine employees were disciplined for sexual relationships with prisoners — offenses ranging from making sexual gestures to intercourse.
Lead author Robert Worley, a criminologist at Texas A&M; University-Central Texas, called tobacco smuggling a gateway offense that can lead to the delivery of more dangerous contraband.
Once a correctional officer is compromised by supplying a single cigarette, the prisoner can blackmail the employee into providing hard drugs, cell phones, even weapons. Smuggling tobacco into a Texas prison is a felony offense.
“Tobacco is the number one drug in prisons,” Worley said, adding that some prison administrators privately concede that restoring smoking privileges would make their jobs easier. “I think it would be an excellent idea to establish smoking zones in designated areas.”
Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and a critic of what he considers lax prison security, agreed.
“Tobacco is an excellent management tool,” he said. “You behave, you get to smoke.” Justifying the ban as a health measure is disingenuous, he said. “They’re trying to make them all healthy, but they’re not taking other measures like providing condoms, better diet or more exercise.”
Texas has spent millions to curb prison contraband — a problem highlighted two years ago after a death row inmate used a smuggled cell phone to call Whitmire. In 2009, more than 1,000 such phones were found inside state prisons.
Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, argued the tobacco ban has reduced smoking-related illness and saved taxpayers money.
“The answer does not lie in making tobacco an allowable item,” he said. “Instead, our focus is on eliminating contraband before it makes its way behind prison walls.”
In his study, Worley, a former correctional officer, noted that inappropriate relationships between inmates and correctional officers — economic or sexual — can “create a chaotic workplace and disrupt security and orderliness of correctional institutions.”
Clete Snell, criminal justice chairman at University of Houston-Downtown, said he was impressed by the sophistication of many of the inmates’ suggestions.
“I think that surveillance cameras within the prison is the best suggestion for supervision and accountability among officers,” he said, adding that equipping police cars with cameras has reduced police misconduct and unfounded prisoner complaints.
Lyons said $6.7 million of the $10 million earmarked for prison security improvements in fiscal 2010 has been spent to place cameras in “targeted” units. About 800 have been installed at Livingstson’s Polunksy Unit; cameras also are being added to units in Beaumont, Rosharon and Beeville.
Whitmire called for the effort to be expanded to all 112 Texas prisons.
He also endorsed the study’s suggestion that standards and pay for correctional officers be increased.
“Bosses bring in contraband because they need the money,” one inmate told researchers. “Pretty soon they start feeling pretty good, once they see they are making some real money by bringing in tobacco. If things are good, and I want other things, I might say something like, ‘so what else do you play with?’ An officer can make $1,000 a week by bringing in cocaine.”
August 4, 2010
“No, I think it’s Marl-boro, with an L.”
“Okay, so Marrel-boro.”
This is the conversation held at the Precinct 4 Constable’s office Friday night as a group of Georgetown high schoolers prepared to participate in their first tobacco sting operation. Last order of business before hitting the streets: decide what tobacco product you’ve been buying for years.
Sting operations are targeted at ensuring that licensed retailers are following all regulatory standards for selling certain products, like tobacco. Violations range from displaying advertising in inappropriate locations to selling to minors.
Volunteers for the tobacco sting were all minors who showed only their real identification when requested. Volunteers are not permitted to lie about their age if asked and the point is not to “trick” stores into selling to minors, but make sure that compliance rules are adhered to.
Six teenage volunteers, split evenly among boys and girls, participated in this weekend’s tobacco sting. Not just anyone would look forward to spending their Friday night with a group of cops, but these kids – all ROTC members – were enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“This is the most exciting thing I’ve done all summer,” said the oldest volunteer, who hopes to participate in alcohol stings in a few months when he turns 18.
This volunteer made the most successful buys, and showed military identification with his birth date of October of 1992 for all of them. One of the simplest mistakes a cashier is likely to make is looking at the birth year without looking at the actual date. During this sting, most retailers did request identification, but failed to examine it carefully.
Out of the more than two-dozen sites visited in Taylor, there were six purchases made at five different locations. Two buys were made at Walmart from the same cashier; Walmart keeps all tobacco products in one checkout aisle.
Stores are not unaware of sting operations in communities – in fact, when one location of a store with multiple branches is hit, they will notify the other managers within minutes of discovering the operation. These phone trees are why the constable’s office coordinated to hit multiple branches at once this time around.
Additionally, the sting effort comes after the constable’s office spent the last year educating county retailers with tobacco sale permits of how to meet requirements.
After purchases were made, officers returned to places where a buy was witnessed to cite both the cashier and business with a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
More than half of the permit holding vendors in Williamson County were checked by the operation, and of those stores, 30 buys were made or about 16 percent compared to Taylor’s 23 percent.
While some store clerks displayed annoyance or even outrage when volunteers tried to purchase tobacco products – one man allegedly threw the volunteer’s identification out the drive thru window when he saw he was underage – others responded with a more even-tempered approach. Retailers that refused to sell to minors were also acknowledged with a certificate of congratulations for compliance.
“Obey the law – it’s simple,” said Circleville storeowner Betty Zimmerhanzel, whose business passed the test with flying colors. “People need to follow the rules.”
Senate passes ban on trans fats at restaurants
By Corrie MacLaggan
Defeat of Texas’ statewide smoking ban a victory for private property rights
J.R. Labbe?? May. 30, 2009
There is perhaps no more zealous crusader in the world of social causes than a reformed smoker. Once people make the decision to kick the habit, they become vocal critics of anyone who chooses to continue contaminating their lungs and the health of those around them with burning tobacco.
I smoked for 10 years. Starting out like most youngsters by bumming cigarettes from my “cool” friends while I was still in high school.
College presented no parental restrictions, and I could smoke like a West Texas grass fire if I wanted to. I got up to almost three packs of menthols a day at one point while lettering in varsity volleyball as a university freshman. In hindsight, I wonder how good I could have been if I hadn’t been puffing away and hacking up pieces of lung after every practice and game.
My New Year’s resolution for 1982 was to stop smoking. I quit cold turkey in January that year. The dreams about smoking finally stopped 20 years later.
After I’ve laid that foundation, readers might conclude that I supported the now-dead bill in the Texas Legislature to ban smoking statewide.
Mine was the lone voice on the Star-Telegram Editorial Board to oppose the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. It is not the government’s place to tell private business owners that they must prohibit smoking, which is legal to do in this country, within the walls of their restaurants or bars.
Tobacco: the industry we love to hate, yet depend on so heavily for tax revenues. Higher levies on tobacco products are integral parts of every proposed tax plan from Austin to Washington. There’s no way America will ever make the use of tobacco products illegal; they mean too much money in government coffers, so to speak.
Limiting access to cigarettes, snuff and chewing tobacco so minors can’t buy or shoplift the stuff is fine by me. I am of the school that thinks anyone under age 18 has limited rights in the first place. But I agree with state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who said he voted against the ban because his libertarian strain trumped his concern about public health.
“For me, it’s a constitutional, personal property issue,” Deuell, a doctor, said in TheDallas Morning News. “I don’t think we have a right to tell somebody what to do with their personal property.”
Amen to that.
Going to work each day in a smoke-free newsroom is a treat that most journalists of yesteryear didn’t enjoy. But publishing companies and other industries didn’t ban smoking inside their facilities because of local ordinances; they did it for savings in insurance costs and a decrease in the number of smoke-fouled computers and smoke-sickened workers. Business owners with any acumen at all have instituted bans with or without the law telling them that they must do so. It’s the economical and prudent thing to do.
If people don’t like going to restaurants, bars, comedy clubs or bowling alleys where the air is thick with someone else’s carcinogens, don’t go. But call the owners or managers of such businesses and tell them why you aren’t a patron. If enough people voice their displeasure with management about smoking policies and also refuse to spend their dollars with them, then these businesses will ban smoking as a marketing strategy.
In a free-enterprise system, the market should guide these types of changes, not government. It’s one thing for a governmental entity to legislate smoking bans in publicly owned or taxpayer-supported facilities (although state Sen. Chris Harris has apparently designated his Capitol office exempt from the Austin public smoking ordinance that prohibits smoking even in private offices in enclosed workplaces). I have no quarrel with a total smoking ban anyplace that receives public financing.
It’s another issue entirely for government to tell private business owners that they must restrict their patrons from smoking.
Smoking in public is becoming less and less acceptable as the populace becomes more and more aware of the intrinsic health dangers associated with that particular vice. It’s only a matter of time before market pressures drive most businesses to eliminate smoking not only among employees but also patrons. But the market should determine those changes, not government.
May 20, 2009
Houston Business Journal
A Texas State senator’s initiative to pass a statewide smoking ban in restaurants has been extinguished for now, but a spokesman for Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, says it’s likely legislators will relight the bill in future legislative sessions.
Senate Bill 544 made it through the Health and Human Services Committee but fell one vote short of getting a full hearing in the Texas Senate, said Jeremy Warren, communications director for Ellis, the bill’s sponsor.
With only 12 days left in the legislative session, Warren says the bill is done for this season. To try again, lawmakers will have to revive it at the next session in two years, he added.
Citing the journalists’ shield law that passed the Texas Legislature on its third try, Warren said smoking-ban supporters are likely to try again. “Sometimes a third time is a charm, but for this session it is no more,” Warren said.
The Texas Restaurant Association supported the ban, considering it the only means to equalize competition among local jurisdictions, where some municipalities have enacted bans and others have left the decision up to restaurant owners.
The association in a statement Wednesday said, “The Texas Restaurant Association is disappointed by the failure of the proposed statewide smoking ban to pass the Texas State Senate. While this issue has long been a contentious one, TRA believes that applying a smoking ban across all workplaces and all jurisdictions is the only equitable solution to a growing social concern.”
Texas Smoking Ban Proposition Could Be Snuffed Out Soon
Apr 29, 2009
Frustrated that time is running short, supporters of a statewide ban on smoking in public places urged lawmakers to pass the bill. A public hearing on the House version of the bill was scheduled for today. A Senate committee took testimony on the proposal weeks ago without a vote.
The House passed a weakened version of the smoking ban last session but it never came up for a vote in the Senate and supporters are getting worried their plan is losing steam with the Legislature working toward its June 1 end.
The bill has run into stiff opposition from civil libertarians who consider it an infringement on civil rights and the rights of business owners
Texas may raise legal smoking age from 18 to 19
Bill breezes through Senate panel
By JACKIE STONE, Associated Press
March 31, 2009
AUSTIN — Though they are legally considered adults and can serve in the military, 18-year-old Texans would be considered minors when it comes to smoking under a bill passed unanimously through a Senate committee Tuesday.
The measure would increase the legal age for buying tobacco products to 19, and would cut off an estimated $12.5 million in tax revenue for the state over the next two years.
San Antonio Democrat Sen. Carlos Uresti pushed the same measure in 2007, but after winning approval in the Senate it fizzled out in an end of session backlog of bills in the House.
Supporters say raising the legal age will prevent teens from smoking an extra year and keep cigarettes out of high schools, where they can be passed along to younger students.
According to the Department of State Health Services, roughly one-fourth of Texas high school students smoked cigarettes in 2006.
“The pressure is on them to start smoking at an early age. Studies have shown us the longer we can put that off, there’s a better chance they’ll never start smoking,” Uresti said.
Uresti said raising the age could cut tobacco use by 20 percent for 18-year-olds. And while the state will get less money from taxes on cigarettes, the state could save billions over time in health care costs for smoking-related diseases.
“We talk about prevention a lot, and that’s a mantra where health and human services is concerned this session,” Uresti said.
The Texas Medical Association, pediatric and cancer groups and the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are supporting the measure.
Four other states — Alabama, Utah, Alaska and New Jersey — have raised the smoking age to 19.
Uresti said he thinks moving the bill through committee and wider support will help it move forward this session.
Opposition has not come forward yet.
Tobacco-giant Phillip Morris is neutral on efforts to raise the smoking age, spokesman Bill Phelps said.
In the past, opponents have said that if 18-year-olds are old enough to serve in the military, they should be able to choose whether to smoke.
But at least one senator who opposed the measure on those grounds two years ago has changed his position. Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said Tuesday that more information and statistics about teens smoking in high school led him to vote for the measure in committee.
With approval from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the proposal now seeks a hearing with the full Senate.
Read More: TX State Alert Page 1