A smoking ban in all workplaces in Corsicana, including restaurants and bars, has been proposed to the Corsicana City Council. It will be the subject of a work session at 5 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, prior to the start of the regular city council meeting.

The proposal was made by members of IMPACT Corsicana, V.O.I.C.E. and Boys and Girls Club of Navarro County.

Getting smoking out of workplaces, including restaurants, is a health issue and a youth drug issue, said Alvis Reeves, with IMPACT Corsicana.

“Anything we can do to lower youth’s experience with (smoking) is a big plus for us,” Reeves said. “If we can keep them from smoking until they’re 18 years of age, normally they will not ever begin to smoke.”

Citing statistics from the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control, Reeves said that only 20 percent of the American population smokes, but they expose everyone else to second-hand smoke.

“I know it sounds discriminatory, but we’re just trying to provide a safer environment for everybody,” Reeves said. “I’ve talked to two restaurant owners and they actually applaud it. They’d like to cut out smoking in restaurants, but they’re afraid if they do it themselves people will just move to another restaurant in town.”

Mayor C.L. “Buster” Brown said he was in favor of the proposal, but wanted input from the businesses that would be most affected.

“I’d like to have a work session on it, and let the people who are going to be impacted, like the restaurant and bar owners, put in their two-cents’ worth,” Brown said. “We don’t want it to be a slam dunk on them.”

Some restaurant owners would support the measure as a way of clearing the air without losing customers to the competition.

Joe Hubbard, with The Other Place and Maxx’s, said he’d welcome the ban on restaurant smoking, so long as smoking would still be allowed in bars.

“I don’t have an objection at all in restaurant dining rooms,” Hubbard said. “In fact, we wish they would because it would solve my problem. But as far as bars — that would just kill the bar business.”

Julius Flores, owner of the Old Mexican Inn, said more regulation isn’t what’s needed. A Smoke-eater system was installed in his restaurant in 1987 to keep the air clean, and it’s serviced monthly, he said.

“We’d like for the owners of the establishments to set the rules. It ought to be up to the merchants. Let them make their own rules, and let the customers make up their own minds about where to go,” Flores said. “I’d like less regulation. Give people a choice. I’d rather there not be any laws, just let us do it on our own, like we’re doing right now.”

Some restaurants, such as Don Jose’s, The Other Place, Napoli’s, and La Pradera have separate bars and dining rooms. Brown said he might be interested in an exemption for bars.

The national movement to ban smoking in public places is driven by health concerns about the effects of second-hand smoke. In the United States, 25 states have banned smoking in workplaces including restaurants, according to a 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control.

In the last six years, at least 45 Texas cities have banned smoking in workplaces, including Dallas, Houston, El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano, Richardson, and Tyler. Smaller cities, such as Marshall, Brownsville, Nacogdoches, Baytown, Flower Mound, Southlake, Sugar Land, McKinney and Kerrville, have also jumped onto the bandwagon.

Cities that have rejected or delayed action on smoking bans include Amarillo, Lewisville, and Nederland.

The potential impact on local businesses was the reason the Nederland city council rejected a ban. That ban had been requested by a group of residents concerned about children inhaling second-hand smoke. In May, Amarillo voters rejected a smoking ban in that city. Lewisville has delayed putting it on the ballot, saying the ordinance needs tweaking before it goes to a vote.

The Mansfield city council has a smoking ban in its Nov. 25 agenda, and College Station is also considering a ban.

The initiative in Nacogdoches began, like the one in Corsicana, with a request from a group looking to improve public health, explained Nacogdoches City Manager Jim Jeffers.

“This particular effort seemed to capture the attention of the mayor and city commission, and we ended up with a smoking ban,” Jeffers said.

The meeting before its passage didn’t attract much attention, but the city did get some negative responses after it was enforced, he said.

“I’d describe the feedback as minimal,” he said. “We did prohibit smoking in bars and patio areas. Those are the groups we’ve heard from, are those that wanted the restrictions lessened, particularly in bars or on patio areas.”

Not all the responses were negative, though, Jeffers said.

“We received lots of phone calls, notes, and people saying ‘thank you,’ including from the restaurant owners, who wanted their facilities to be non-smoking, but felt like they couldn’t as long as the other restaurants had smoking facilities.”

One study was done in El Paso, after that city passed its ordinance against public smoking in 2002. The Texas Department of Health and the CDC analyzed sales tax and mixed-beverage tax data from 12 years before the ban, and one year after it was implemented.

“...No statistically significant changes in restaurant and bar revenues occurred after the smoking ban took effect,” the report stated. “These findings are consistent with those from studies of smoking bans in other U.S. cities.”

In 2007, a statewide ban on smoking in workplaces was introduced in the Texas state senate, but failed to pass into law. It’s expected to return to the Texas Legislature in January.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com

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