Proposed Smoking Ban Up For Debate
By ADRIENNE GRAHAM
By ADRIENNE GRAHAM
The air around Tyler businesses and restaurants may soon be clearer.
A task force charged with making recommendations for updating the city’s smoking ordinance is pushing for a 100-percent ban from all public buildings, city Councilman Nathaniel Moran said this week. But before the ordinance is written, members of the task force are asking for public input.
Moran, who is chairing the task force composed of City Council members, restaurant owners and health experts, is asking the public to give input on the issue before the ordinance is drafted.
“We will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Harvey Hall (Convention Center). We will take e-mails and letters and we will read and pass around any letters to the editor we see in the newspaper,” he said.
“We are looking forward to everyone voicing their opinion on this issue. This is not a debate and not a discussion time. This is our chance to gather everyone’s opinions,” Moran said.
Seventeen cities in the state of Texas are 100 percent smoke-free, and the task force is turning to several of them for ideas on how to make the transition.
Abilene, Lubbock, Plano and El Paso each have a similar ordinance, but to varying degrees of restriction.
The task force gathered this week to discuss some points of the ordinance that will have to be defined — including what businesses will be exempt from the ordinance, the minimum distance from buildings smokers will have to stand and how violations will be handled.
“There are a lot of things to look at here,” Assistant City Attorney Steve Kean said. “In some cities they ticket the violator, some cities ticket the business that allowed the violation and sometimes it is both.”
Task force members also reviewed the types of business that received exemptions in other smoke-free cities such as tobacco shops and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts.
“In Abilene and El Paso these types of businesses were exempted, and that is something we will discuss,” Moran said.
In Abilene and El Paso, VFW posts are not considered public businesses because they do not have any type of paid staff, and tobacco shops are allowed to contain smoking rooms if the shop primarily sells tobacco-based products.
Other cities, such as Round Rock, allow smoking in establishments that sell alcohol, but not food.
Task force member and restaurant owner Rick Eltife said he supports the change as long as all businesses are equally affected.
“I just want to know we will all be on a level playing field,” he said.
According to Tyler’s current smoking ordinance, in city code chapter 4, article II, smoking is prohibited in public places when a “no smoking” sign is conspicuously displayed.
Tyler Mayor Joey Seeber asked the committee to review the current code and make a new recommendation in December.
“I am asking the committee to look at the 2006 surgeon general’s warning and to look at our current ordinance and decide whether something needs to be done,” Seeber said.
Seeber said the city’s stance on smoking has historically been to let the restaurant industry regulate itself.
The Smoking Task Force public meeting is open for all to attend and, for those who cannot make it, task force members are asking for opinions to be e-mailed to the Tyler City Council through the city Web site at www.cityoftyler.org. E-mail addresses for all City Council members are listed under “Council Connection” on the Web site.
Council members Moran and Chris Simons are members of the Smoking Ordinance Task Force, but the entire council must approve the final ordinance for it to go into effect.
More information about the surgeon 2006 general’s report is available at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.
Tyler City Council
212 N. Bonner Ave., Tyler, Tx 75702
P.O. Box 2039, Tyler, Tx 75710-2039
Phone: 903-531-1250 Fax: 903-531-1166