Ten years ago, the Fort Worth City Council began a discussion that lasted more than a year and included recommendations from an ad hoc committee of local residents and extensive public hearings, all about banning smoking in public places.
It came 10 years after previous council discussions resulted in new smoking regulations across the city.
Both times, exceptions were carved out to allow continued smoking in bars.
Ironically, after another 10-year cycle, that may be about to change.
Smoke-Free Fort Worth, a coalition involved in the previous efforts and now rejuvenated, launched a new campaign last week “committed to ensuring everyone in Fort Worth has the right to breathe smoke-free air at work.”
It’s crucial to note that the campaign kickoff was held at Billy Bob’s Texas, the big north side honky-tonk that previously was instrumental in defeating efforts to ban smoking in bars.
Earlier this year, Billy Bob’s adopted its own smoking ban. That changes everything.
A decade ago, marketing director Pam Minick said Billy Bob’s did not want to force its customers to go outside to smoke. Now the venue has built a patio for smokers.
In announcing the ban that took effect May 1, current Billy Bob’s marketing director Chris Spinks said recent customer surveys turned the tide.
“Smoking was an issue that was consistently brought up,” Spinks said. “We put this policy in place because of that.”
The change at Billy Bob’s could well decide the issue if it comes before the City Council again for an ordinance change. Bar owners and patrons who want to keep smoking will have to shape themselves into a political force without that powerful ally.
Smoke-Free Fort Worth includes local residents and such organizations as the American Lung Association in Texas, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
At Wednesday’s campaign kickoff, the coalition announced results of a poll by Baselice and Associates Inc. showing that 84 percent of Fort Worth residents believe bars would be healthier for customers and employees if they were smoke-free.
The poll also showed that 80 percent say it would be nice to go out and enjoy bars without breathing secondhand smoke and smelling like smoke afterward.
If Billy Bob’s has decided smoke-free is better for business and employees, the old walls against smoking bans are crumbling.