Fort Worth's ordinance banning smoking in bars and bingo parlors goes into effect soon, and the city's parks may not be far behind.
In December, the City Council updated the city's smoking ordinance to include bars and bingo parlors. The new law goes into effect March 12. Organizations pushing for a smoke-free city pursued the change, saying the city has not kept pace with public sentiment and data that show the ill effects of secondhand smoke.
At that time, and despite voting against the updates to the ordinance, District 4 Councilman Cary Moon asked that the ordinance include parks and public sidewalks.
On Tuesday, staff recommended that smoking be banned in parks and that smoking on public sidewalks doesn't need to be regulated. Smoking on public sidewalks is not a pressing public health concern and only a few cities nationwide ban it, said Brandon Bennett, the city's code compliance director.
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The council directed staff to draft an expanded ordinance but members said they wanted a little more time to consider it.
Christa Lopez-Reynolds, a senior assistant city attorney, told the council the city could not defend banning smoking on public streets unlike it can regarding indoor smoking, which is done based on the U.S. surgeon general's finding that secondhand smoke is a danger to other people.
"With regard to outdoor smoking, we don't have that finding," she said.
In asking for the outdoor ban, Moon said banning indoor smoking forced smokers onto public streets, "where people may not have a choice to navigate around them."
Under the proposed ordinance expansion, smoking will still be allowed outside at golf courses and at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, Bennett said. The streets at the Will Rogers are treated as city streets, he said. Smoking is banned in the buildings and the animal barns.
Smoking could be allowed at special events in city parks, but only in designated spots, such as Concerts in the Garden, Bennett said..
Fort Worth is the only large Texas city that allows smoking in parks. Moreover, Fort Worth was one of the state's last big cities that still allowed smoking in bars. The new law also prohibits the use of e-cigarettes.
Smoking is allowed in outdoor dining areas and patios of public places as long as it's at least 20 feet from entrances and exits. Smoking is still allowed in private clubs. The new ordinance prohibits retail smoke shops within 300 feet of schools, universities and hospitals.
Recently, the city's Consumer Health Division sent notices to about 3,180 businesses reminding them of the smoking ban.
Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST