San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 18th, 2011
City to hold open house today on public smoking ban

STAFF REPORT

Should the San Marcos City Council let citizens vote on a non-binding proposition to ban smoking in public places, and if so, what kinds of places? San Marcos residents and business owners are invited to participate in an open house meeting today to address this question.

The open house will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 1 of the San Marcos Activity Center, located at 501 East Hopkins Street.

Another open house is scheduled for July 21, from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. at the Texas Music Theater, located at 120 East San Antonio Street.

The city is hosting the meetings to inform the public, obtain input from citizens, and receive guidance from them regarding how a non-binding proposition on public smoking should appear on the November ballot.

Being non-binding, the proposition would not become law upon voter approval. However, if some kind of ban on public smoking has the support of most voters, city councilmembers would likely vote on an ordinance reflective of that desire.

The San Marcos Code of Ordinances allows smoking in bars and in designated smoking areas within restaurants, work places, and even offices in government-controlled buildings. The law bans smoking in public meeting rooms, classrooms, bedrooms and common areas of child care facilities, public areas of grocery stores and other retail stores, meeting rooms and public areas of hotels and motels, meeting rooms and common areas of nursing and convalescent homes, and public areas and common areas of child care facilities.

Unless at least two San Marcos city councilmembers change their minds by early September, the non-binding proposition will appear on the November election ballot. During a meeting earlier this month, five out of seven councilmembers expressed support for a non-binding ballot proposition to further restrict public smoking.

San Marcos Councilmember Fred Terry expressed opposition to both a non-binding or a binding proposition to further restrict public smoking. Councilmember Jude Prather supported a binding ballot proposition only if it allows people to smoke in business establishments that sell tobacco.

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20 thoughts on “City to hold open house today on public smoking ban

  1. If you’re afraid of second-hand smoke, you should also avoid cars, restaurants…and don’t even think of barbecuing.

    here are just some of the chemicals present in tobacco smoke and what else contains them:

    Arsenic, Benzine, Formaldehyde.

    Arsenic- 8 glasses of water = 200 cigarettes worth of arsenic

    Benzine- Grilling of one burger = 250 cigarettes

    Formaldehyde – cooking a vegetarian meal = 100 cigarettes

    And so on. You can stay at home all day long if you don’t want all those “deadly” chemicals around you, but in fact, those alleged 4000 chemicals in cigarettes are present in many foods, paints etc. in much larger quantities. And as they are present in cigarettes in very small doses, they are harmless. Sorry, no matter how much you like the notion of harmful ETS, it’s a myth.

  2. Lung cancer and air pollution: a 27 year follow up of 16 209 Norwegian men

    Background: The well documented urban/rural difference in lung cancer incidence and the detection of known carcinogens in the atmosphere have produced the hypothesis that long term air pollution may have an effect on lung cancer. The association between incidence of lung cancer and long term air pollution exposure was investigated in a cohort of Oslo men followed from 1972/73 to 1998. Methods: Data from a follow up study on cardiovascular risk factors among 16 209 40 to 49 year old Oslo men in 1972/73 were linked to data from the Norwegian cancer register, the Norwegian death register, and estimates of average yearly air pollution levels at the participants’ home address in 1974 to 1998. Survival analyses, including Cox proportional hazards regression, were used to estimate associations between exposure and the incidence of lung cancer. Results: During the follow up period, 418 men developed lung cancer. Controlling for age, smoking habits, and length of education, the adjusted risk ratio for developing lung cancer was 1.08 (95% confidence interval, 1.02 to 1.15) for a 10 µg/m3 increase in average home address nitrogen oxide (NOx) exposure between 1974 and 1978. Corresponding figures for a 10 µg/m3 increase in sulphur dioxide (SO2) were 1.01 (0.94 to 1.08). Conclusions: Urban air pollution may increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1746548/

    The relative risk factor is 1.08 to 1.15 roughly the same as second hand smoke junk studies.

    shs/ets rr is 1.19 per the junk epa study that was tossed as junk science by a federal court.

    tap waters rr is 1.25

    milk is 2.14

  3. On the ballot..

    1. Are you in favor of a compromise smoking solution for bars, taverns pubs
    and restaurants?

    2. Are you in favor of arrangements to accommodate smokers in bars, pubs.
    taverns and restaurants?

    3. Do you think every business owner should decide himself if smoking is
    allowed on his property?

    4. Would you be willing to let smokers be accommodated so long as those who
    chose not to be exposed would not be exposed?

    5. Do you agree the the smoking restrictions that exist now are sufficient?

    6. Should businesses be required to either ban smoking or provide
    ventilations and filtration arrangements which reduce the levels of airborne
    smoke to levels comfortable and acceptability to most workers and customers?

    7. Do you support the prohibition of smoking in all public places, but not
    private enterprises(e. g. bingos, bars, taverns etc.)

    8. Would you support the need for a complete smoking bans in pubs taverns
    restaurants, it state of the art ventilation were introduced instead?

    9 Do you believe the hospitality industry has the intelligence to handle
    this smoking
    issue without the interference from the mayor and council or any other
    special interest groups?

  4. Unless I read the data wrong at Monday’s public forum, Hays County is already one of the top 10 healthiest counties in Texas, with no smoking bans in any city.

  5. Take a survey and get good information on quitting smoking and not gaining weight! I did and am very happy. Google; quit smoking and lose weight. Lots of good information on how to avoid the pitfalls after you quit, like bloating, weight gain, constipation, etc.

  6. As I have said before, this issue will remain tricky because it is a debate with addicts.
    I saw this first hand with my 2 pack a day now deceased father, who was smoking 2 days after double bypass heart surgery. He, like many on this board, staunchly defended his right to smoke: whenever and where ever he wanted.

    Smokers will spend any length, to concoct arguments to debunk the healthiness of their habit. Their addiction wil overcome consideration of others (they don’t care if they make you smell their smoke, or that it MIGHT be unhealthy). They don’t care that their habit helps contribute to rising health costs. They don’t care that their habit is proven to be cancer forming in their bodies, and others. They’ll deflect the issue to private property rights, bbq fumes, car fumes, government intervention, whatever they can to make themselves feel they have control of their habit. But they don’t.

    And they may not have a high income but they’ll pay $6 pack…and eventually it will be 7…8…9…

    The truth is, their is nothing good long term about smoking. Nothing. You may enjoy it (for now) but it weighs not only on you, but everyone around you. But what I’ve discovered over the years is habitual smokers in the end, don’t have the willpower to care about those around them.

    The cigarettes have won, and the tobacco companies are laughing all the way to the bank.

  7. I don’t think anyone is questioning whether smoking is harmful for you, we are questioning that limited exposure to second hand smoke is harmful to you. It is a little, but no more so than limited exposure to many other substances we all come in contact with on a daily basis.

    I do not smoke, I never have. I do have friends who smoke, I do go to places where smoking is allowed. I conceed that I am increasing my risk a tiny amount by having these freinds and going to these places, but that is the point, it is a tiny amount. The anti-smoking zelots have an agenda, and they blow this risk completely out of proportion.

    Look at it this way, anyone over the age of 50 grew up surrounded by second hand smoke, it was unavoidable. If secondhand smoke is so harmful you would think the death rates from cancer and heart disease would be going up as the childhood of second hand exposure catches up with us 50 somethings, instead it is going down, why?

  8. Said GMan: “They’ll deflect the issue to private property rights, bbq fumes, car fumes…”

    I understand the exception you take to the argument that goes “other environmental factors are just as dangerous.”

    I take exception to lumping in “private property rights” with your line of reasoning. I have no right, nor does the majority of voters, to tell someone how to run a business. If they can make more money by disallowing smoking indoors then they will come around on their own. If not, they will fail and someone with a more profitable business model (read: non-smoking) will take their place.

    However, to legislate your personal preference of how someone else runs a business is repugnant to a free society.

  9. Mr McCarthy:
    The issue will be brought to vote. This will be the decision of the public, not the local government.

    By the way, is it ok for the government to tell local (private) businesses they have to serve (equally) women, or asian americans..or people with disabilities?

    Sometimes laws that improve community are a good thing.

  10. We don’t argue that government has the right to tell PRIVATE businesses that they have to adhere to health code rules do we? We don’t complain that the fire marshal tells these PRIVATE businesses that they can only safely have so many people in their establishment. We don’t say a word when government tells PRIVATE business how to dispose of their waste. Our government tells PRIVATE businesses that they must adhere to non-discrimination rules when making hiring and promotion decisions.

    In all of these ways and more, we have invited government to intervene in the affairs of PRIVATE businesses, and generally to thunderous applause. But to address smoking – the filthiest and unhealthiest habit a person can have – is suddenly going to turn us into a Nazi state? Please.

  11. First and foremost, @ Johnengles… I am about 99.999% sure that your data is wrong. If you were right, then my co-worker who is a vegetarian would already be dead. Secondly, Austin and San Antonio banned smoking inside businesses and they are doing juuusssttt fine. I really don’t care if you smoke but there is no reason why I, or anyone for that matter, should have to smell ciggarette smoke while we eat our dinner. It is just absolutely asonine to think that we still have smoking inside. I work at a restaurant that allows smoking in their bar area and I often see people actually turn around and leave when they find out that we allow smoking inside the premises. So I don’t think that you can confidently say that there would be a decrease in business when there are more people who would prefer a non-smoking establishment.

  12. Dano: the government isn’t TELLING you we can’t smoke in San Marcos. It is simply an initiative for a November ballot.

    The people will vote…and decide.

  13. Because this is a non-binding referendum, after the vote the results will go to the city council. The final vote may be against a smoking ban but the council could implement it anyways, or vice versa. The final decision rests with the City Council.

  14. Griffin:
    I wasn’t aware it had been decided as a non-binding referendum at this point. Are you sure about that?

  15. Yes. Quoting from the City’s press release:

    “The City is sponsoring two Open House meetings July 18 and 21 to gather views on a possible Non-Binding Smoke-Free Referendum. The City Council provided direction at the July 5 City Council meeting to proceed with gathering public input on this initiative to assist in developing general ballot language.”

    One of the main issues is that they are bumping up against the clock to place items on this November ballot. Another proposed referendum on banning plastic shopping bags was discussed but due to time issues was dropped.

  16. Of course, the council could decide to put nothing on the ballot. But the window of opportunity to place a binding referendum on this November’s ballot came and went a few weeks ago.

  17. Griffin: yes I am speaking of November, these meetings (I went to one) seemed to be more for how it would be worded IF it goes to ballot. And to see if there was enough interest (there was).
    Once it’s on the ballot, pending council dscussion, we’ll vote in November on the issue.
    At least that’s how I understood the explanation.

    However, I do agree that it is very important how it is worded, and what restrictions might be put on the “possible” ban. (restaurants/bars/indoor only/smoke shops, etc.)

  18. One of the reasons for going with a non-binding resolution is that the wording doesn’t need to be very specific at all, since by definition a non-binding resolution does not force any legally-binding action. The exact proposal itself will probably be crafted by staff between when the item is put on the ballot and November, and in theory will be based on the input from the public meetings.

    As for how the item would appear on the ballot, I am not a lawyer but I assume the following would suffice:

    “Should the City of San Marcos Further Restrict Smoking in Public Places?”

  19. Too vague. ” Should the city restrict smoking in privately owned businesses such as bars, restaurants, auto parts stores and other retail and wholesale establishments?” would be more to my liking.

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