For years, the debate over indoor secondhand smoke has centered on the push and pull of public health versus the rights of business owners.
Fort Worth has stuck to the position that patrons can go elsewhere if they don’t like the smoke in a bar. An alternative is to join cities across the state and nationwide that simply ask patrons to “step outside.”
What’s lost in the debate is the worker perspective — which as a former bar owner and employee, I know firsthand.
Until recently, I owned several bars on West Seventh Street where, alongside my employees, I spent days and nights exposed to cloudy indoor air — until my doctor encouraged me to quit smoking.
She was shocked to learn that I’d never been a smoker, because I was experiencing health impacts such as coughing and sinus problems as if I were a smoker.
All options were tough choices to make: Turn my bars smoke-free and risk losing customers, keep risking my health daily or throw in the towel and get out of the smoke.
Without leadership from the city to level the playing field and make all bars smoke-free indoors, it seemed too big a risk to go it alone.
So I decided to lease out my bars, choosing my health over a hazardous work environment.
With the focus on healthy lifestyle programs and economic development from our leaders in city government and business, it’s time Fort Worth stepped up to make all indoor workplaces smoke-free.
Yes, some will complain. But we know from other cities and a mound of economic reports that businesses aren’t hurt by the change.
And we know there is an immediate health improvement for workers.
After I had been out of the cloudy bar for six months, my doctor reported a significant improvement in my health. I am lucky to have received that news.
Ten years ago, our city missed an opportunity to protect employees and Fort Worth residents with a common-sense policy that keeps smoking outdoors.
We have that opportunity again now, and the momentum is building.
Last month, I was joined by a local bartender, a musician, a hospital leader, a family physician and a large crowd breathing easy at the now smoke-free Billy Bob’s Texas to launch the Smoke-free Fort Worth campaign. Learn how you can join us at www.smokefreefw.org.
Public opinion continues to change on this issue.
A new poll found that 80 percent of Fort Worth residents agree it would be nice to go out and enjoy bars without breathing secondhand smoke and without smelling like smoke at the end of the night.
We cannot let another decade pass before protecting all residents from the significant dangers of secondhand smoke.
Matt McEntire owns Shamrock Corner Holdings in Fort Worth.