WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - The city of Wichita Falls went officially smoke-free this Friday. Restaurants and bars that were given a two-year grace period under the ordinance would now have to keep patrons from smoking indoors, and if applicable allow them to smoke on a patio area that met the smoking ordinance requirements.
"I really think it benefits the city from a health perspective," director of health for the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District, Lou Kreidler said.
Co-owners for The Broken Tap in Wichita Falls had opened days before the ordinance passed in June 2014 and the two year grandfathered grace period began.
"I really don't think it's going to effect us negatively in any way," Jaclyn Burke, co-owner of the bar said.
She and her partner Stacy Hawkins said when the ordinance passed they had to rattle their brains at what to do. Their bar sits at the corner of a row of buildings in the 800 Block of Indiana.
The street it out front and there is an alley in the back, Hawkins said. They do have plans to build an outdoor area for smokers and said this ordinance will not shut their business down.
"I think it's going to help business. I really do because we have a lot of customers that were really looking forward to it and a lot of people that have said as soon as it passes they have other people that want to come in, and it's not that big of a deal for people to step outside," Hawkins said.
Many bar goers were there Saturday evening to celebrate the bar's two year anniversary. But not all were happy they could not smoke for the occasion.
"I just really feel like just our personal liberties are being infringed upon," Kershawna Anderson said.
Anderson said she is not in favor of the smoking ordinance and explained why.
"I just believe that it's the right of the proprietor. I really think that the business owner should have the right to choose whether or not they want it in their establishment," Anderson said.
Debbie Parker disagreed.
"I'm asthmatic. I like to come down here to visit with my daughter. It's her business and I'm proud of her. I like to see what she's doing and it was hard to come in here. It was hard for me to breath," Parker said.
Parker said she was able to enjoy the smoke-free air and celebrate her daughter's business being open for two years. As the debate continues, health officials said since the ordinance was put into place, smoking rates have dropped. Kreidler said when the ordinance was passed smoking rates were at 21% and the last county health fax showed that number had dropped to 19%.
"We've already seen some decrease and that's lag data so it's hard to say that passing of the ordinance has that effect, but studies have shown that anytime you have restrictive smoking ordinances that the smoking rate tends to decline," Kreidler said.
Now that the ordinance is in full effect violators could face a fine up to $500 per violation. This includes business owners as well.