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

The San Marcos City Council is looking again at whether to strengthen the city’s 1995 Clean Air ordinance regulating smoking in public places.

The issue will come up at next Tuesday’s council meeting, where city staff will present an overview of past discussions, including public input sessions two years ago that resulted in a council decision to not place a smoking initiative on the November 2011 ballot. At open houses, 51 percent of participants supported stricter rules and 48 percent opposed.

A citizen survey this spring showed that 47 percent support stricter regulations, 26.2 percent opposed them, 21.2 percent were neutral and 4.9 percent did not know.

The council first adopted a Clean Air ordinance in 1995, establishing “clean air areas” in municipal and commercial properties, while allowing designated smoking areas in some circumstances. Smoking areas require appropriate signage, size, ventilation and separation from clean air areas.

Next week’s discussion will review the current San Marcos ordinance, compare the Austin and San Antonio smoking ordinances, health effects of second-hand smoke, economic impacts of smoke free ordinances, and provide direction to staff.

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9 thoughts on “Council to discuss clean air ordinance

  1. Here is what concerns me in this mess. I do not smoke, never have and never intend to. I am not your daddy so I am not going to tell YOU what to do. I am not forced to go into a bar that has smoke nor am I forced to go into a restaurant that allows smoking. But both those arguments have been stated over and over again. What scares the hell out of me is a slippery slope. Remember when the government first started banning smoking? It started out only in government buildings. Then no smoking outside the doors of government buildings. Government owns those buildings so I felt it was ok to make rules for their buildings. Then we moved into privately owned business like bars and restaurants. I have a huge problem with government sticking its nose in private business. Now with all the scares about second hand smoke is the next step not allow smoking in my home? If my spouse smokes and I do not, can she be fined for smoking in her own home? The second hand smoke is dangerous to me, I can’t take care of myself so I need government to come to my aide and fine her or better yet throw her in jail. Don’t think it can’t happen. We said the same thing when we were warned about rules against smoking in privately owned bars and restaurants

  2. “First they came for the communists (smokers), and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a communist (smoker);
    Then they came for the socialists(fat people), and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a socialist(fat person);
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    ― Martin Niemöller

    I hate smokey bars and restaurants but I love private property rights more. Private property being labeled as “public places” was a contrivance created in order to push the Americans With Disabilities Act onto property owners. The market is slowly solving this problem with mostly just bars still allowing smoking. I think council has more important things to worry about than meddling with how a business person chooses to operate.

  3. Also, I challenge you readers to post for us the links to studies on the dangers of second hand smoke. What I’ve seen is based on very weak research.

  4. Yeah. I can’t stand it when big government sticks its nose in private businesses, like telling restaurant employees to wash their hands and making them conform to health guidelines. Watch out folks! It’s a slippery slope! Next thing you know they’ll be saying you can’t serve rotten or expired food.. Don’t tell me how to run my business, Big Brother.

  5. I for one would not really want to contemplate eating out in a world where there were no standards to meet for the storage, care, and handling of the food and the hygiene and practices of the cooks and servers of the food that I consume when I go out to eat.

    The concept of the benefit of the public health has long been recognized as overriding that of private property rights….and even the most ardent of libertarians that I know would agree that this is a good thing.

    So what we are left with is the question of whether smoking in public is a “public health issue” or not. If you believe that it is, then you have tons of established law and practice to back you up. If you don’t think it’s a public health issue, then you likely just think it’s another example of government being all up in our business.

    I suppose the distinction between smoking and food handling is that it’s readily discernible that a business allows smoking, while sloppy food handling isn’t as transparent to the consumer. And it’s certainly true that no consumer has a “right” to patronize a particular establishment. However, it’s equally true that smoking is an activity that doesn’t only affect the smoker – it has detrimental effects on those around them as well.

    And there’s the rub.

    In this very town, we have ordinances telling business owners where they can build, what they can build, where their customers can park, how loud they (and their customers) can be, when they can have live music, what they can and cannot sell, who they can and cannot sell to, when they can sell certain items, how they must handle their food, how they must store their food, when they must wash their hands, how clean they must keep their facilities, what utensils they may use to cut their food, how old someone must be to consume certain products, how old someone must be to serve those same products, and the list goes on and on. All of these restrictions exist because it has been deemed that the “public good” is more important than the “private property rights” of the business owners.

    So what is it about smoking that makes it some sort of sacred cow that we have to have these same long, drawn out discussions each time a smoking ban comes up?

  6. I’m not an anarchist or even a Libertarian. I just think it’s important to keep in mind the cost (and return on investment) of laws. There is a cost for council to even discuss this, more cost to get it written into the books and more cost to enforce it. And for what benefit? With the “health guidlines” mentioned by Brooklyn there’s direct and somewhat measurable benefit at EVERY food service establishement. Not so with the smoking ordinance. I eat out quite a bit in San Marcos and almost never encounter smoke. My guess is this discussion is really targeted at the bars. A person who is bothered by smoke is certainly not forced to go to a bar. About the only grounds by which a smoking ban can be defended is the protection of the workers but in previous discussions in San Marcos I haven’t heard that mentioned. Seems to me we’re once again going to wring our hands and waste a lot valuable council time trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

  7. I’d be curious to know how many of our council persons smoke and how many go to bars. Imagine that none smoke and all go to bars from time to time, wouldn’t they prefer a smoke free bar? Is it possible they would adopt a self-serving regulation at the expense of bar owners rights? I can also imagine bar owners quietly asking council to get this passed so they don’t have to be the bad guy that ban smoking in his bar.

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