The last Fort Worth City Council meeting of 2017 ended with a puff of smoke, figuratively, as the council approved a change in the city’s smoking ordinance.
Effective in 90 days (March 12), smoking will be prohibited in bars and bingo parlors. The ordinance includes e-cigarettes. And retail smoke shops will be prohibited within 300 feet of schools, universities and hospitals.
The action updates the 2008 city smoking ordinance.
“Fort Worth joins all other major Texas cities in going smoke-free. Fort Worth has made great strides in health and wellness, with many of our initiatives receiving national attention,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “The adoption of this ordinance, which will go into effect in 90 days, is another step forward in creating a healthier environment for all of Fort Worth – from workers to patrons, musicians to expecting mothers. I hope you join me in support of a smoke-free community.”
The action was applauded by the Smoke-free Fort Worth coalition and health practitioners.
“This is a great day for the city of Fort Worth,” Dr. Mark Koch, who chaired the coalition, said in news release. “Our coalition set out to make our city healthier for everyone who lives and works here, and I’m excited to see the City Council achieve that goal.”
Holly Motteram, executive director of the American Lung Association in Texas, called it a “major public health win for Fort Worth residents who visit and work in public places. There are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, and this imperative ordinance will protect our lungs and help keep indoor air safe to breathe.”
The council action established thresholds for business to allow smoking – cigarettes, tobacco and related products must account for 90 percent of gross annual sales for retail smoke shops and 30 percent of gross annual sales for cigar lounges.
Smoking is still allowed in outdoor dining areas and patios if the smoking area is 20 feet away from entrances and exits.
The council voted 8-1 to approve the changes.
The no vote was cast by District 4 Councilman Cary Moon.
“This ordinance is bad governance,” Moon said. “This is not a comprehensive smoking policy.”
Moon clarified his remarks by asking his fellow council members to look into implementing a policy that includes public property such as sidewalks and parks and drivers smoking with children in the back seats of cars.
“I’m a fan of the small-business owner,” Moon said. “For an ordinance to come through and tell a business in 90 days you’re going to lose your customers is not good governance. This is an attack on small-business owners.”
District 5 Councilmember Gyna Bivens responded, “It’s taken so long to get to this point. I’m willing to support the motion and wait for that perfect day at another time.”
District 3 Councilmember Brian Byrd said, “Folks, I’m a physician. Our legal staff has worked to get it right, and I believe we have it right.”
The decision came after about 50 people spoke to the council on the subject, most in favor of the restrictions.
Steve Love, president/CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, noted that prior to this decision Fort Worth was the largest city in Texas without such an ordinance. “Tonight can be a historic night,” he said. “Let’s make this the historic night Fort Worth deserves.”
Keisha Leatherman, a resident of Burleson who works in Fort Worth, has asthma. She said, “The majority of my decisions where I go and time spent there include is smoking allowed.”
The changes were met with opposition from some local bingo parlors.
“I’m also the voice for a lot of the elderly who have smoked all their lives,” said Kathy Anderson of Town and Country Bingo.
“I choose to work for a bingo hall that has a smoking section. If I did not enjoy it I would find another place to work,” said William Porter, an employee of Town and Country Bingo.
Jennifer Cofer, director of MD Anderson’s EndTobacco Program, said in a news release that MD Anderson fully supports the council’s action.
“MD Anderson physicians daily are witnesses to the devastating impacts of tobacco use, including the suffering of both cancer patients undergoing treatment as well as their families. As an institution devoted to ending cancer, we applaud the use of sound evidence to inform policy that protects the public health, and support the timely consideration and implementation of other evidence-based actions to further reduce and ultimately eliminate the toll of tobacco in Texas and the U.S.,” Cofer said.