Property Rights: TX Lottery sales at stores allowing smoking

Texas Lottery sales at stores allowing smoking update

Lottery sales at stores allowing smoking may be violation

AG: Offering tickets at stores allowing smoking may be ADA violation

November 8, 2007
By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – The Texas Lottery Commission may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing tickets to be sold in places where smoking is permitted, the attorney general’s office said Thursday.

The opinion means the commission could face lawsuits from people with disabilities triggered by secondhand smoke. Lottery commission officials said they have no plans to limit lottery sales to smoke-free environments – the request of an asthma-suffering man who prompted the attorney general’s opinion.

“A court would probably find that the Texas Lottery Commission violates the Americans with Disabilities Act if it fails to provide Texas residents with ‘meaningful access’ to state services” – in this case, lottery tickets, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said.

To Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Democrat who requested the opinion, it means lottery tickets can no longer be sold in stores that allow smoking.

“Now that lottery tickets may only be sold in smoke-free environments, we need to continue to move forward and provide all Texans with the protection of a smoke-free workplace,” he said. Mr. Ellis offered a measure this year to ban smoking statewide in public places, but it failed to pass the Legislature.

But Bobby Heith, spokesman for the lottery, said the opinion isn’t that clear, and the commission feels no urgency to take action. He said it’s possible the lottery will consider ways to better inform customers about smoke-free retailers, or lawmakers may change procedures.

“In a big city, in an Austin, you probably couldn’t find a convenience store with smoking,” Mr. Heith said. “But if you look in rural areas, where they don’t have smoking ordinances, it’s possible you could go into a store where people would be smoking.”

The attorney general’s statement follows a 2006 complaint to the lottery commission made by Lewisville resident Billy Williams, who said he had a severe asthma attack after buying a lottery ticket at a smoky convenience store. Mr. Williams suggested that his rights were violated because smoking was permitted at the retailer.

The lottery commission replied by asserting its right to allow ticket sales at retail outlets that permit smoking and inviting Mr. Williams to visit other retail locations that restrict it. Many retailers that sell lottery tickets are already smoke-free.

Mr. Williams, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, has compared permitting smoking at lottery retailers to not providing wheelchair access.

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