Local city council postpones vote on smoking ordinance

Posted at 12:29 AM, Jun 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-17 01:40:00-04

On Tuesday, the Waco City Council delayed the vote on a proposed ordinance that would make the city of Waco 100 percent smoke-free.

Council members postponed the vote until next month because they had questions about specific situations and the impact it would have on businesses.

Under the proposed ordinance, smoking would not be allowed in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, restaurants, and bars.

In addition, smoking would be banned at city parks, playgrounds, and at public events held on property owned or occupied by the city and used for city purposes.

Smoking would be allowed 25 feet or more outside any entrance or window of a business.

At least four business owners expressed concerns about banning smoking in enclosed areas during the public hearing portion of the city council meeting.

Under the current smoking ordinance that went into effect in 2002 and was amended in 2009, establishments whose alcohol sale makes up 50 percent or more of their business are allowed to have designated smoking areas with a separate ventilation system.

"We've spent money to be in compliance and spend money to open new businesses. Don't punish us for following rules. We did the things we needed to do for city currently. Don't take that away from us,” said Managing Partner for George's West Rock Kyle Citrano.

Citrano said business owners would like to have an input if an ordinance is proposed.  He also suggested the council allow voters to decide whether they would like Waco to be 100 percent smoke-free.

More residents who attended the meeting, including those from a group called Smoke Free Waco, spoke in favor of the ordinance.

The Chief Medical Officer for Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, Dr. Jim Morrison, also supported the measure saying ventilation systems can't remove risks of smoke exposure. In addition, he said there is no safe level of second-hand smoke.

"There is no reason why someone should face increased risk of lung cancer simply because they're mixing drinks or serving food,” said Morrison. “We have a moral obligation to extend protection to all workers, including those in bars and restaurants.”

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District reviewed and updated the current smoking regulation at the request of the city council. If the proposed regulation passes, it would repeal all the current smoking regulations.

The city council will vote on the ordinance on July 7. However, they will have to pass the ordinance in two consecutive meetings to make it official.