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June 01, 2004

Austin Smoking Ban Goes into Effect... Sorta

By Byron LaMasters

A much watered down smoking ordinance is going into effect in Austin today. I'm probably one of the few people that are relatively ambivalent about it. I don't smoke, but it doesn't bother me too much, so anyway, here's the story:

Austin's new smoking ordinance goes into effect today, and though it is not nearly as strong as anti-smoking advocates had hoped, the law will at least initially reduce the number of restaurants and bars where customers can light up.

The law requires restaurants to construct enclosed smoking sections with separate ventilation systems if they want to continue to allow smoking. As of last week, only 12 of the city's 245 restaurants had applied for or received a city smoking permit.

Bars, on the other hand, only have to pay the $300 annual permit fee to continue to allow smoking. As of last week, the city was processing 97 permit applications out of its estimated 1,000 bars. City officials expect to see more applications in coming weeks.


A year ago, the Austin City Council passed virtually a smoking ban in restaurants and bars. That ordinance never went into effect and was replaced with the current version in October by a new City Council.

The new ordinance requires establishments that get less than 70 percent of revenue from alcohol to construct smoking sections or ban smoking and all others to get permits if they want to allow smoking. Money from smoking permits will go to enforcement and tobacco education, officials said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at June 1, 2004 04:06 PM | TrackBack


I hate going anywhere that I am subjected to smoke. It really bothers me (very irritating to my sinuses and lungs). I also work at MD Anderson Cancer Center and have to fight my way through clouds of smoke from the patients who are being TREATED for smoking related cancers when I enter and exit the building. My husband is from California, where rules like this have been in place for years and he LOVED it. Imagine going to a club and actually being able to breath and not risk being burned by a careless smoker or have your clothes REEK. I wish Houston would enact a similar law.

Posted by: Gene at June 1, 2004 07:11 PM

Gene, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the issue is far, far more complicated than the anecdotal "ew, stinky!" that you and so many anti-smokers love to offer as reason for legislation.

Imagine going to a club where the owners were free to cater to the paying customers that they chose and that the market proved it would bear, instead of the ones mandated by laws.

Don't like secondhand smoke? Don't go to places where it gathers, like particular nightclubs.

Posted by: Tracy at June 1, 2004 10:47 PM

With Tracey's rationale, we should allow polluters to posion the air and destroy our water, because the "market would allow it" and we can just move to where they are not polluting.

When you smoke in my presence, you are poisoning me and the air I breathe. Poison yourself, not me.

I tell smokers that if you want to smoke in my face, do not get upset when I throw up in yours due to your smoke. (Cigarrete smoke does make my nauseated and give me headaches.)

Posted by: WhoMe? at June 1, 2004 11:02 PM

You know the engine behind this train, don't you? It's the workers comp insurance companies. Second hand smoke really does cause cancer, and once we go down that row, everyone has to hoe. When they first stopped allowing people to smoke in public places (like bars and restaurants), smokers took it so incredibly personally. I just responded to them with a degree of sympathy and said "y'know, they won't let us smoke dope in public, either."

Posted by: Houston at June 1, 2004 11:52 PM

There's no E in "Tracy", thanks. And no logic in your response, WhoMe?, but thanks for trying. As I've already said, this issue is far, far more complicated than you handful of naysayers can squeeze out in comments on a blog.

If I smoke in your presence (and I don't smoke, actually, but I'll play "what if" with you), then you have chosen to enter a nightclub, and you have chosen to sit by me. And you bear the responsibility for those choices. Nowhere in any Bill of Rights is it written that someone deserves to go to a privately-owned nightclub, built on private property, where other patrons are engaging in legal behaviors, and breathe pristine air. Anti-smokers (different from non-smokers) need to start being grownups and get off the waaaaaaahmbulance.

And the Austin City Council just agreed with me.

Posted by: Tracy at June 2, 2004 08:30 PM

And then I've CHOSEN to walk into my place of employement through your clouds of smoke? Or chosen to park in my designated garage where you and other smokers gather under the huge "no smoking" sign, and blow smoke in my face and laugh if I point to the sign? ALL of the nightclubs I've ever been to in Houston allow smoking (except for the rare "non-smoking show" - always followed by the regular show). The market in California did not collapse because smokers were asked to smoke outside. If you want to kill yourself, go ahead (I'll even charge you full price with a smile when you beg Dr. Gene to help cure your smoking related illness). But when you smoke, you affect OTHER people. Dipping is pretty disgusting, but it only bothers other people if you spit on them or leave the spit can out. When you smoke, you spew toxic fumes out to anyone within range (and they may not be able to move away).

Posted by: Gene at June 2, 2004 11:07 PM
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