Fort Worth

Some Fort Worth council members call for more smoking restrictions

Some members of the City Council said Tuesday that they want to revisit the city’s smoking ordinance, which bans smoking in most public places, and expand it to include bars.

The call for the city staff to put together a committee or hold public hearings to explore the issue came after a city attorney presented a briefing on the issue during the council’s work session.

Council members Sal Espino and Ann Zadeh said data gathered in 2006 to support the city’s ordinance, which took effect in January 2008, has changed significantly, as has public opinion.

Espino said secondhand smoke remains an issue to employees working in places where smoking is allowed.

“It’s no longer just a private-property-rights issue, it is a public health concern,” Espino said. “We need to look at this again comprehensively. One of the things we do as a city is look out for the health concerns of our citizens.”

The city’s ordinance came after a U.S. surgeon general’s report that showed a public health concern about secondhand smoke exposure. When passed, the City Council followed the city’s public health director recommendation to ban smoking in all indoor public places to minimize exposure to secondhand smoke.

Currently, smoking is allowed in bars that have at least 70 percent of annual gross sales from alcoholic beverages. Smoking is also allowed in hotel/motel rooms, private clubs, outdoor dining areas, bingo parlors and retail tobacco stores, among other places.

Zadeh said she has received a good deal of communication from residents, including the Smoke-Free Fort Worth coalition, about expanding the ordinance.

“We need to go a step beyond just getting this update as to what brought us to where we are currently and respond to the citizens who have communicating to us they want us to take it a step further,” Zadeh said.

Councilman Jungus Jordan, though, pushed back at the request, saying Fort Worth’s ordinance is one of the toughest in Texas and the U.S. He said it’s up to property and business owners whether they want to ban smoking.

“It really comes down to that property owner can make the decision to have smoking in their place or not,” Jordan said. “I don’t think it’s our role as government to tell a private property owner, private business owner, that he can or cannot have a rule in his place or his business as long as it’s a legal substance.”

In April, Billy Bob’s bar/entertainment venue in the Stockyards banned smoking at the request of its customers.

Christa Lopez-Reynolds, senior assistant city attorney, said the city hasn’t had any kind of feedback from any industry that the smoking ordinance is not working.