But maybe not for much longer.
San Antonio City Councilman Justin Rodriguez announced [last] Friday that he is sponsoring an ordinance to outlaw smoking in most public places, including all bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Rodriguez said San Antonio is one of the largest cities in the country without legislation to protect the public from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
“We recently missed out on federal funding because we’re not a smoke-free city,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so important to the future of our community.”
Rodriguez said the new ordinance would close any loopholes in existing anti-smoking laws.
The City Council passed an ordinance in 2003, which a group called the Smoke-Free San Antonio Coalition does not believe went far enough.
“There have been certain criteria that you could have smoking allowed in (some businesses),” said coalition chair Suzanne Lozano, who’s also a registered nurse.
San Antonio is approximately where Houston was before it passed a more extensive smoking ban back in 2006. That was done after Austin voted to adopt a tougher anti-smoking ordinance in 2005; numerous other cities including Dallas and Galveston have since followed suit. Given how common this is now, I don’t suppose it had even occurred to me that San Antonio had lagged behind on this. I expect this to pass fairly easily when it comes to a vote, but there is some opposition on Council.
[City Council member John] Clamp argues that “the market is working,” and banning smoking in San Antonio could push businesses to other municipalities in Bexar County. Customers can choose to go to other places, he said.
But Rodriguez agues that employees can’t.
“I don’t think folks have a choice to work in a smoking or nonsmoking establishment,” he said. “They go where the jobs are.”
“I think everybody has a choice on where to work,” he said. “If you really think second-hand smoke is bad for you, don’t work in a bar.”
More regulations will hurt business, Clamp said.
“They’ll have to lay off some of their wait staff, for sure,” he said. “If you’re not bringing in enough money, then you’ll have to lay people off.”
Sounds an awful lot like Houston’s debate, with Rodriguez playing the part of then-Council member and smoking ban advocate Carol Alvarado, and Clamp filling in for Michael Berry or Addie Wiseman. Seems to me you could check on Houston’s experience to measure Clamp’s claims if you wanted to. The Houston Press did an informal survey of bars and live music venues in 2007, which suggested it was mostly no big deal, but that’s the last I recall hearing about it. Which is kind of suggestive in itself – if there were a trend of places closing or relocating to less-restrictive unincorporated Harris County, you’d think there’d have been more news about it. My suspicion is that San Antonio’s experience will be like Houston’s, including how the passage of the ordinance plays out. Queblog has more.