Irving Is Having a Lot of Trouble Passing a Smoking Ban
For the most part, Americans have come to accept restaurant- and workplace-smoking bans. Even in freedom-loving Texas, most residents view them less as an encroachment on individual liberty than a reasonable measure to protect the health of nonsmokers, even if their politicians don't. The alarmed cries of nanny-statism are now reserved for Michael Bloomberg and his war on soda.
Flickr user CascadeFoto Don't fret, Mr. Cigarette. You're still welcome in Irving.
Irving, however, is still warming up to the idea. Earlier this year, the city's health board introduced a proposal to ban smoking from the few dozen bars, restaurants, and workplaces that still allow patrons to light up.
"To do our job as a health board we have to recommend what is healthiest for the people of Irving," chairman John Drake tells Unfair Park.
Specifically, he points to an study published by the American Heart Association in late 2012 showing that comprehensive anti-smoking laws were associated with significant drops in hospitalizations for heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases.
Drake's concerns were not shared by a solid chunk of people -- elected representatives and ordinary citizens alike -- who showed up at Irving's City Council meeting last night to protest the proposed ban.
The Twitter feed of The Dallas Morning News' Avi Selk gives a good play-by-play of the ensuing debate:
City hall has a district aroma tonight as bingo ladies, other presumed opponent of new smoking ban pack council chambers— Avi Selk (@aviselk) September 20, 2013
Best line so far was by Joel Romo with American Heart Assocation. Smoking areas are "almost like having a city pool with a peeing section"— Avi Selk (@aviselk) September 20, 2013
' @IrvingMayor says she made the peeing in a pool metaphor back in 2006— Avi Selk (@aviselk) September 20, 2013
Cool River VP Bill Watson says they closed Austin location after smoke ban."A smoking ban by this CC will mark the end of our business"— Avi Selk (@aviselk) September 20, 2013
Dennis Webb says he's skeptical of all the research. He lit his dad's cigarettes as a kid and he's fine— Avi Selk (@aviselk) September 20, 2013
Webb, for context, is an Irving City Council member. He joined with two of his colleagues in voting to kill the proposal ban. Instead, it's being kicked back to committee.
Drake is exceedingly diplomatic about the whole thing. Asked if he expects the ban to ultimately pass, he would only say that he remains confident that the health board brought forward a "great option to consider."
He sidestepped a question about the opposition in similar fashion..
"Irving is full of great people, and they're not all going to be on the same side of every issue."
And some day, they may step into the 21st century.