Smoking Ban Heats Up - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Smoking Ban Heats Up

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A possible smoking ordinance, which could eliminate smoking in all public places in Wichita Falls, has many local restaurant and bar owners concerned for their business.

"The smoking ordinance was brought up by the Health Coalition, which is made up of 40 members.  A tobacco subgroup within the Health Coalition has a goal to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in our community," said Lou Kreidler, Health Director for the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Health Department.

The owner of the Parkway Grill, Scott Plowman thinks the smoking ordinance can put restaurant and bar owners in a touchy situation.

"The city cares about the health of employees and restaurant and bar owners," said Plowman.

The Parkway Grill in particular has always had an area for those who want to smoke and an area for those who did not.

"I would support it because I want what's best for the citizens of Wichita Falls.  Hopefully we have a vote instead of the city council deciding and let the citizens vote on it.  That's what I would like to see happen.  Whatever happens, I'll abide by what the law says," said Plowman.

Even though Plowman does support the ordinance, he does have some concerns.

"Some of the parts that are in the ordinance, I don't like.  You can't have it (smoking) outside.  To me, that's taking it a little too far.  I'd like to maybe build a patio out here so that smokers could go out there and smoke without having to be by the front door" said Plowman.

Many of the concerns from local restaurant and bar owners were discussed to Kreidler at a stakeholders meeting Tuesday night.

"The stakeholders meeting was really just to go over the ordinance to let them (restaurant and bar owners) know exactly what it will include.  Some of them felt like it would be hard for them to meet the ordinance and still have a safe place for the patrons to smoke," said Kreidler.

Plowman also wants the best for his employees.  He has also discussed the smoking ordinance with   other local restaurant and bar owners.

"They feel like times are trying right now with this drought being really hard.  We're worried about people leaving town or moving away and then now we're going to get hit with a smoking ordinance.   This time they feel like they're getting piled on," said Plowman.

One Texoma resident does not like this possible change.

"I think it sucks. I'm from New York and they did that same thing in New York.  We had 5 bars in my little town and all five closed because of that. It should be up to the constitution, that's your right.  You have the right to smoke, "Allen Ray.

"The smoking rate for Wichita County is 21-percent, while the smoking rate for the state of Texas is 18-percent.  Over the last year, while the rate for the state of Texas has gone down, our local rate has gone up. We have higher incidents of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.  All of those chronic health diseases that are caused by exposure to smoking and second hand smoke," said Kreidler.

The Health Coalition plans to bring the smoking ordinance as a discussion in the next Wichita Falls city council meeting which is June 3rd. 

Taylor Barnes, Newschannel 6