Smoke Free Falls? - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Smoke Free Falls?

Smoke Free Falls?

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Wichita Falls city council chambers were packed Tuesday as residents, 20 of them, lined up to make public their opinion on a proposed smoking ordinance. There were those who spoke for and against the possible ban on public smoking. Most of the public comments came from the bar and restaurant business owners who were worried that they would suffer from such a ban.

My hourly staff I'm going to have to back off, I'm going to have to lower their hours. My staff that is based on tips they are simply not going to make enough money," said Latonya Kittrell a Manager at Parkway Grill.

There were also medical experts like Doctor Jed Grisel who used medical data and statistics to show the health benefits of such an ordinance. Grisel is a head and neck surgeon who's seen first hand the health horrors associated with smoking and second hand smoke.

"I'm confident if any of you had a son or daughter who had experienced the misery of head, neck cancer the importance of this ordinance as written would not be a discussion," said Grisel.

There was nearly an hour and a half of public comments from cancer survivors, concerned citizens and self labeled libertarians. After public comments were concluded, it was clear that this ordinance was something people felt passionate about.

Wichita Falls Director Lou Kreidler council with their first view of the proposed smoking ordinance. During her presentation Kreidler cited medical and financial data from other cities that have implemented similar ordinances. At the end of the presentation some councilors questioned the timing of such an ordinance.

"There comes a time when we need to enforce regulations to protect the health of our community and as Public health that is our mission and what we do," said Kreidler.

Wichita Falls District 4 Councilor Tim Ingle said he did not think it was prudent to push for this ordinance. Instead Ingle proposed more public health education on the side effects of smoking.

"I can understand the argument on both sides, but when it comes down to my core I didn't fight for more government control and that’s why when you said those statements I was like uglhhhh," said Ingle.

Wichita Falls Councilor at large and Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Smith said he believed this ordinance was long overdue.

"I think it's time to take that next step for the benefit of the citizens and lets vote on it," said Smith.

Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham was quick to remind the council and members of the public that a vote would not be taken until the next session in two weeks.

"This is a tough one, it's got a lot of public input weather for or against and,  well make a decision on the 17th as to what we’re going do," said Mayor Barham.

The last time smoking ordinance passed in Wichita Falls was in 1994. Locals petitioned for a referendum election to recall the ordinance, but that recall failed. Barham said "if" the council did pass the ordinance in the next session Wichita Falls could again petition.

Jack Carney, Newschannel6