Texas Legislature Looking At Comprehensive Smoking Ban

It's possible restaurants in Texas could be throwing out the ashtrays.  If Senate Bill 355 is passed, smoking would no longer be allowed in enclosed public places or places of employment.  A similar proposal didn't make it through the House or Senate last session, so it's already farther along this session.  Local Health Director Lou Franklin likes where the bill is headed.

"The fact that this has come out of the house committee with a favorable reading is a good sign for the citizens of Texas," she said.

The ban would apply to restaurants, bars, and even public outdoor venues, such as bleachers or grandstands at a sporting event.

"Employees in those areas will no longer be working and exposed to second hand smoke," Franklin said.

Buffalo Wild Wings in Wichita Falls currently allows smoking at the bar area, but bartender Eddie Beirne is okay with the proposed idea.

"I personally would probably support it.  I mean, most places you go to nowadays are non-smoking anyway," he said.

Scott Plowman, owner of Parkway Grill, says the bill might make some bigger cities happy, but he likes that his customers have a choice to smoke at his restaurant.  Neither he nor Beirne think the ban would be detrimental to the bottom line.

"I don't think it will affect a lot of businesses.  It might slow them down for the first week or so, and eventually everyone will get used to it and everyone will be back out again," Beirne said.

Although Texas is one of just a handful of states that hasn't yet instituted a comprehensive smoking ban, Franklin says any amount of second hand smoke is too much.

"If it passes and Texas does have a comprehensive smoking law, then yes, it will be a victory for the citizens of Texas," she said.

SB 355 also lists specific requirements for restaurant and bar owners regarding ashtrays and 'no smoking' signs. The bill was placed on the intent calendar Wednesday.