After much deliberation, the Weatherford City Council approved an ordinance which will ban smoking in restaurants or other businesses that serve food.
The issue of smoking was first raised at a work session on Dec. 10, when the council decided to do some more research and seek residents’ opinions before making a decision.
In the first meeting of the new year Tuesday, the council first decided to move forward with a policy that would prevent smoking on city-owned property such as parks or the First Monday grounds.
Any city employee seeing someone disobeying non-smoking signs could ask them to stop or leave the area. If they do not leave, they could then be arrested for trespassing.
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But council members said they believe that just the signs themselves will likely prevent smoking in those areas where children and families gather.
But after approving that policy, the council then faced the issue of smoking in restaurants, which has been banned in other cities such as Fort Worth and Dallas.
"I think we’re really getting behind most of the cities in Texas if we don’t do this," council member Jeff Robinson said.
Robinson said he has heard complaints from several residents who prefer that eating places be non-smoking.
Council member Waymon Hamilton however said the decision should be left to the business owners.
"I don’t believe it’s our place to make an ordinance for that, it should be the individual owner’s prerogative," Hamilton said.
Earlier the same evening, the council adopted the 2009 building codes and regulations that require proper ventilation in places allowing smoking. But Robinson pointed out that those codes will only be applied to places being built or renovated and not existing businesses.
Council member Craig Swancy said for 36 years his business has been non-smoking and he has only received two complaints, but he does not think it should be forced on other owners.
"I also believe it’s not city council’s policy to tell somebody to smoke or not smoke," Swancy said. "Let the business dictate what they want to and they’ll reap or receive the benefits thereof, either way."
Fire Marshal Bob Hopkins warned the council to be cautious when considering such an ordinance.
"Smoking is an addiction," Hopkins said. "And I think once you understand that you’ll understand how hard it is to regulate it."
Stephanie Davenport, a program director of Tarrant County Challenge, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of the consequences of substance abuse, said second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death.
"It’s not just regulating them to death," Davenport said. "There’s a reason behind it."
Considering the opinions of the residents, the council decided to put the ordinance to a vote.
"It’s not what we think – we’re representing the citizens of Weatherford; it’s what our citizens want us to do," Mayor Dennis Hooks said, admitting that is often hard to do.
The council decided with a narrow 3-2 vote to approve that ban of smoking in restaurants, although it would be permitted in outdoor serving areas.