Dallas Passes Tighter Smoking Ban

Ordinance prohibits smoking in bars, pool halls

The Dallas City Council approved Wednesday an expanded smoking ordinance that prohibits lighting up in bars and pool halls.

The ordinance, which passed on a vote of 10-5, will make it illegal to smoke in bars, pool halls and within 15 feet of any public entrance.

"This will hopefully trigger more cities, more counties and, hopefully, the state of Texas to pass the smoking ban," Councilwoman Elba Garcia said.

It does not restrict smoking in tobacco shops or cigar bars, any business that earns more than 20 percent of its gross revenue from the sale of tobacco or tobacco products that are smoked on premises.

The measure will increase fines from $25 to $200, and a business owner can now be fined for allowing patrons to smoke where it is prohibited.

A motion to delay the ordinance failed 9-6.

Emotional supporters on either side of the debate jammed the City Council meeting. Proponents of the measure wore red shirts, while opponents yellow shirts.

Many bar owners and employees said the ban will put them out of business.

"Simply put, these are people's jobs," bar owner Kevin McCormick said. "We're talking about a legal product that adults of legal age choose to use."

Bar owner Michelle Fiaschetti said going out of business is "a real possibility" for her establishment because smokers make up 75 percent of her clientele.

But supporters of the measure said nonsmokers may continue to go to bars if they become smoke-free. The move will benefit bar workers, they said.

"We can no longer ask people who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace to choose between their paycheck and their health," said Dr. Ahmet Khera, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

A group of schoolchildren, all wearing "Smoke-Free Dallas" T-shirts, attended the meeting to support the cause.

"Without question I believe this is a health issue," Councilman Jerry Allen said. "It's a health issue for our children."

A move to add vehicles with children inside to the ban failed.

Some council members said they wanted to wait for the state to level the playing field with neighboring cities that currently have weak rules about public smoking.

The ordinance will go into effect on April 10.

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