Denton to consider smoking ban

Several Denton City Council members say they’re open to considering a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other workplaces, responding to pleas from residents worried about the risks of secondhand smoke.

Council member Dalton Gregory has asked the council’s agenda committee to schedule a discussion on a smoke-free workplace ordinance. Mayor Mark Burroughs, who leads the committee, said the discussion would take place in a month or two after city staff members researched the proposal.

Smoking ban sign

Smoking ban sign

The action came after several residents appeared before the council recently asking the city to ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

The speakers included Caleb O’Rear, chief executive officer of Denton Regional Medical Center, who said 90 percent of the lung cancer cases the hospital sees are directly related to smoking.

States and cities across the U.S. have enacted similar smoking bans. In Texas, state Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, has pushed for a smoke-free workplace law for years, but the bills have failed to pass the Legislature.

Dallas, Flower Mound, Highland Village and Plano are among the Texas cities that require smoke-free workplaces.

Supporters say the laws protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke. More than 7,000 chemicals have been identified in secondhand tobacco smoke, including at least 69 that cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Opponents say business owners should have the right to choose whether to allow smoking.

“It’s a complex issue,” said Burroughs, who supports a statewide ban but is hesitant to pass a local ordinance. “If it’s a legal activity, citywide bans seem to me to be going beyond what local governments at least originally were prescribed to do.”

The local push is getting help from Tobacco-free North Texas, a coalition working to reduce the impact of tobacco use in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis and Tarrant counties.

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