Arlington to consider banning smoking at workplaces

ARLINGTON -- A City Council committee will soon explore whether Arlington should join a growing list of Texas cities -- including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- that ban all smoking at workplaces.

On Tuesday, Councilman Robert Rivera suggested that the council look into a request by Arlington Citizens for Clean Air to ban indoor smoking at all businesses and to eliminate ashtrays and similar receptacles within 50 feet of all building entrances.

Since 2006, smoking has been banned at Arlington restaurants, hospitals, hotel and motel bars, public buildings and free-standing bars that get more than 25 percent of their revenue from food sales. Smoking within 50 feet of doors or windows that open at nonsmoking facilities is also banned.

Smoking is allowed at most Arlington bars, nightclubs, adult entertainment centers and bingo halls that don't allow patrons under 18.

"Toxic tobacco smoke has no rights and must be eliminated. This mother of all chemical weapons kills 65,000 innocent Americans every year," David Fusco, director of the clean-air group, wrote to the council. "Statistically, that means that approximately 78 innocent Arlington citizens die each year because they were exposed to toxic tobacco smoke. There is a simple way to save many of those lives and that is to act, now, and prohibit smoking in all places, indoors and out, in our city."

Rivera said he wants to examine the health and economic effects reported by cities with smoke-free ordinances and to hear from Arlington residents and business owners.

"None of this is imminent," Rivera said. "This city is perpetually looking at ways to improve the quality of life and the experience for everyone."

Mayor Robert Cluck, who led the 2006 drive to strengthen smoking restrictions, said a citywide ban on indoor smoking might reach too far.

"This may be an exercise in frustration. You can't mandate personal habits," Cluck said. "I don't think it's practical."

Cluck, a physician, added that people would be better off if they didn't smoke.

Andrey Sokolov, who splits his time between Arlington and Austin, which has an indoor-smoking ban, said he supports the proposal.

"I really enjoy it when no one is smoking around me," Sokolov said.

The clean-air group has also asked the city to require businesses to post signs about the ban on smoking within 50 feet of building entrances.

"Please vote, now, to make Arlington a truly smoke-free city and help protect the health, safety and welfare of everyone. We've waited long enough," Fusco wrote.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578