It took a while, but Fort Worth is clearing the air in city parks, too

The Fort Worth City Council is expanding its ban on cigarette smoking to include most public parks.
The Fort Worth City Council is expanding its ban on cigarette smoking to include most public parks. Associated Press archives

We could say, “what’s taken so long?”

Instead, we’re gonna say, “way to go!” Fort Worth city council members for voting to expand the ban on smoking in public places.

This is a public health issue, and we’re thrilled our public officials are recognizing that by updating the old, permissive smoking ordinance for the second time in a year.

In March, it became unlawful to light up in the city’s bars and bingo parlors, something that has been prohibited in other major Texas cities for years. E-cigarettes are off-limits in those places, too.

In this video from CDC's Tips From Former Smokers campaign, Kristy explains how she finally realized that she had to quit smoking cigarettes completely.

Now the council has banned smoking in public parks, except in some outdoor areas of golf courses and the Will Rogers Memorial Center. We’re not sure why rodeo riders and golfers need a special pass to blow smoke, but we’ll leave it to the patrons of those places to take that bull by the horns.

We’re just thrilled that kids and parents sitting in the bleachers at Little League games will no longer be subjected to the toxic fumes of second-hand smoke. It’s not only annoying, it’s unsafe. There’s a reason they’re called cancer sticks, right?

Smoke-Free Fort Worth, a coalition of major health-related organizations — the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society — deserve some of the credit for pushing Fort Worth into the anti-tobacco mainstream.

The group launched an aggressive education campaign bolstered by the kind of hard, cold facts we’ve been hearing for years, but conveniently ignored.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases and diabetes. More than 20 million people in the United States have died from smoking-related diseases since 1964, including 2.5 million nonsmokers as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke,” the group’s website states.

The council may vote Tuesday night on new rules to ban smoking in public parks and on sidewalks. The ban would include e-cigs. If passed, it will go into effect in 90 days.

Smoke-Free Fort Worth met with city officials and took their campaign to community events and neighborhood groups.

They helped with a growing awareness that the benefits of going smoke-free would not only improve health, it wouldn’t necessarily hurt businesses who had objected to a change.

Tracey Barnett, an associate dean who studies the effects of tobacco at the UNT Health Science Center, said concern for businesses was what held up Fort Worth’s strengthening of its smoking ordinance.

“But the evidence showed that it doesn’t hurt business. In some cases, it even helps it,” she said in a UNT Health Science Center article. “There are many non-smokers who will intentionally seek out smoke-free venues so it likely balances.”

And there's no doubt many would-be club employees in our tighter job market would walk away if the job description included the requirement: “Agrees to swallow and inhale large volumes of cancer-causing tobacco fumes while mixing gin and tonics.”

Barnett said people here became more receptive when they saw that when smoke-free policies in other cities didn’t hurt their economies. Even party towns like New Orleans embraced a smoke-free ordinance several years ago.

On this issue, and perhaps others, Fort Worth may be a kind of “show-me” city. Should this have happened earlier? Yep. But let’s look forward and know that in another 90 days when the updated ordinance kicks in, we’ll have cleared the air in our parks as well as our watering holes.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram