Fort Worth is an amazing city, reflecting a proud and rich Texas history, but it does hold one concerning distinction: it is the only major city in the state without a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. It’s time for the City Council to enact a smoke-free ordinance that protects the health of everyone in Fort Worth.
A 100 percent smoke-free ordinance will help people breathe easier, creating safer and healthier environments for everyone who lives, works and plays in this great city. From the Stockyards to the Symphony, I want each one of us to be able to enjoy the city I love without worrying about the air we breathe.
The dangers of secondhand smoke are well-known and serious. That’s because secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. Secondhand smoke is proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses, and is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States.
The nearly 14,000 service industry employees in our vibrant city, along with musicians and entertainers, breathe more secondhand smoke on the job than other types of workers, and they can suffer from many of the same illnesses as regular smokers. Currently, only nine of 128 bars in Fort Worth are smoke-free establishments, including Billy Bob’s.
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Smoke-free policies protect workers and the public from the harms of secondhand smoke. The air in smoky establishments will become dramatically cleaner and healthier in a matter of weeks. The laws save lives and health care dollars. A smoke-free workplace law across Texas, for example, would result in more than $400 million in health care and productivity savings to the state’s economy every two years.
Fort Worth can realize some of those gains by taking action on its own.
One of the biggest red herrings is that bars and other establishments that go smoke-free will lose business. Over the years, we have heard all the claims: “Smoke-free will never work in (airplanes, restaurants, bars, the South, music venues, you name it).” But it does — over and over and over again — around the world, across the United States and throughout Texas.
For example, El Paso enacted its smoke-free ordinance in 2002 — and a study examining the relationship between the ordinance and bar revenues found that alcohol sales were not affected. In fact, smoke-free businesses ultimately save money on health care costs, insurance and building maintenance. That’s why many business owners who opposed smoke-free laws in the past have come to embrace them as their workers are healthier, their patrons happier and their business costs lower.
In addition to being a health win and an economic win, adopting a smoke-free law is a political win because the majority of voters from both parties are supportive. It simply takes leadership, common sense and a commitment to the city’s health, economy and image.
Hundreds of jurisdictions — cities, counties, states and countries — have successfully implemented smoke-free laws. They have done so with few problems and high compliance rates across the board. That’s why more cities keep enacting smoke-free bars and restaurants. And no one is going back because smoke-free laws work. It’s time that the Fort Worth way includes the right to breathe clean air.
Kit Moncrief is a Fort Worth community leader who serves on several local boards in addition to her interests of ranching, art, wildlife conservation and education.