LUBBOCK, Texas–Having lost support in four consecutive legislative sessions, supporters of a ban on smoking in all workplaces are taking their fight to individual cities. The West Texas Smoke Free Coalition targeting Lubbock and Smoke Free Wichita Falls are the latest examples of the fight between individual property rights and what supporters claim are the rights of employees.
On KFYO-AM in Lubbock, Matthew Harris explained that the goal of the West Texas Smoke Free Coalition was not to ban smoking altogether in public, but to ban smoking in enclosed areas where employees work. Harris told KFYO that his organization would even want to ban smoking in cigar stores and lounges. Harris and his supporters say that employees should not have to trade their health for a paycheck. “People shouldn’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck. Sometimes, and especially in these industries, you get a job wherever you can, especially in the economic climate that we have right now. And so they are choosing to work in this industry, but they shouldn’t have to trade their health just to put food on the table.”
Harris disagreed with the argument that employees knew what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to work at a certain establishment that allowed smoking and believes that his organization’s job is to protect the employees. Harris also wants a new smoking ordinance in Lubbock that would include a ban on smoking at cigar stores and lounges that have cigar events where even the employees smoke.
The West Texas Smoke Free Coalition is working towards a new ordinance drafted by city attorneys and presented to the Lubbock City Council as soon as possible.
In Witchita Falls, a similar ordinance will go to the City Council on June 17. A report from News Channel 6 says that a compromise with bars and restaurants has been reached for that city to go smoke-free. Smoke Free Wichita Falls has been pushing for a new smoking ban targeting tobacco and according to their Facebook page, vaping. The compromise reached in Wichita Falls would give existing restaurants two years to ban smoking.
The “Insert the Name of Your City Here” Smoke Free Coalitions have been supported by a larger statewide push, appropriately called, Smoke-Free Texas. When asked by Breitbart News why individual businesses shouldn’t decide themselves to go smoke-free, Joel Ramos of Smoke-Free Texas said, “We believe the Texas economy benefits from a healthy workforce. Passing a comprehensive statewide smoke-free indoor workplace law or strengthening local smoke-free ordinances are effective ways to prevent the many diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke and will save Texas taxpayers and businesses money.
State Representative Myra Crownover of Denton proposed a statewide smoking ban in all workplaces in Texas in 2013. Her bill did not receive a committee hearing. Supporters of such a ban have said they will renew their efforts in 2015.
Follow Chad Hasty @ChadHastyRadio.