On Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance to prohibit smoking in bars and bingo parlors. These prohibitions will be in addition to those already in place for workplaces and restaurants. By passing this ordinance, Fort Worth can ensure a healthier environment for everyone — from workers to patrons, musicians to expecting mothers.
Our current policy that allows for smoking in these areas makes Fort Worth exceptional — and not in a good way. Not only are we one of the few remaining major U.S. cities that allow smoking in bars, Fort Worth going smoke-free would also make all the largest cities in Texas smoke-free. Fort Worth is leading on issues of health and wellness, and it’s time we take this next step to protect the well-being of Fort Worth residents and visitors.
Over the years, research has taught us more about secondhand smoke and the negative impact it has on our health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke can increase a nonsmoker’s risk for heart disease or lung cancer by up to 30 percent, and it is responsible for more than 41,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Research has shown us that smoking in public spaces is a serious health concern that affects us all, smokers and nonsmokers alike.
Because of this, business owners have increasingly shown support for a smoke-free policy. In fact, many of you have already experienced this transition, as places like Billy Bob’s have decided to go smoke-free on their own. The fact of the matter is that people vote with their pocketbooks, and citizens are increasingly avoiding places where smoking is allowed. The smoke-free policy has become a matter of both public health and economic development.
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Updating the city’s smoke-free policy is also an opportunity to stand up and protect service industry employees who, along with entertainers, inhale more secondhand smoke while on the job than any other employee group. Our service industry employees shouldn’t have to choose between a job and a safe work environment. Our current smoke policy jeopardizes the health of our workers and patrons, and it’s time to do something about it.
Fort Worth has made great strides in health and wellness, with many of our initiatives receiving national attention. We are prioritizing the community’s well-being through various successful efforts, including the Blue Zones Project, our FitWorth initiative working to reduce childhood obesity, partnerships with AARP to become an Age-Friendly Community, recognition as a bronze-level Bicycle-Friendly Community, and the enhancement of more than 70 miles of Trinity Trails and almost 12,000 acres of parkland. All of these efforts are making a difference, but making Fort Worth truly smoke-free is one remaining step.
Advances in research, along with changes in public opinion, make this the right time to revisit our outdated public smoking policies. I firmly believe that extending our smoking ordinance to include bars and bingo parlors is critically important to reach our goals as a healthy community of the 21st century, and I hope you will join me in support of a smoke-free Fort Worth.
Betsy Price is the mayor of Fort Worth.