Beginning March 12, patrons to Fort Worth bars and bingo parlors will have to take their smoking habit outside.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to approve updates to the city’s smoking ordinance for the first time since 2008.
Fort Worth was one of the last major cities in Texas that still allowed smoking in bars. The new law also prohibits the use of e-cigarettes.
Despite voting no, Councilman Cary Moon asked that the city’s attorneys now look at prohibiting smoking in city parks and on public sidewalks. He said the new ordinance “is an attack on small-business owners,” adding, “If our goal is to promote public health, I would like to see it include to make smoking illegal on our public sidewalks.”
Councilman Dennis Shingleton said “this is a step in the right direction.”
The vote came after nearly 50 people spoke, or submitted a comment card, in favor of the new law, citing health concerns.
“Every worker has the right to breathe clean air,” said Fort Worth resident Linda Johnston. “No one should have to choose between their health and a job.”
Four residents, including three with ties to bingo halls, spoke against including bingo halls in the new ordinance. They said patrons will go to bingo parlors in other cities where smoking is allowed.
The new ordinance still allows smoking in outdoor dining areas and patios of public places, provided the area where smoking is permitted is at least 20 feet from entrances and exits. It also still allows smoking in private clubs.
In addition, the new ordinance prohibits retail smoke shops within 300 feet of schools, universities and hospitals. A retail smoke shop is a business that receives 90 percent of its gross annual sales be from tobacco, smoking and e-cigarette products.
The council wanted to wait 90 days for the ordinance to take effect to give city staff time to educate the owners of about 300 Fort Worth bars.
The push for the ordinance change came in October by the group Smoke-free Fort Worth, a consortium of 50 organizations from health, business and community interests. Council members said the city’s smoking ordinance has not kept pace with public sentiment and data that show the ill effects of secondhand smoke.