The strengthened recommendations, which will be considered in August by the Quality of Life Committee before heading to the full council later in the month, now include banning smoking in several public spaces, including the San Antonio Zoo, the River Walk, Alamo and Main plazas, parks and outdoor stadiums.
That’s in addition to extending the city’s smoking ban to bars, pool halls, comedy clubs, restaurants and bingo halls, as introduced in April.
I don’t recall if Houston’s updated ordinance mentions parks or other outdoor locations like that. I do know that the Houston Zoo is smoke-free, and I’m rather surprised that isn’t already the case for the San Antonio zoo. The rest is more or less the same as what we now have. That includes some of the arguments against it:
Restaurateur Louis Barrios, an outspoken opponent of a stronger smoking ban, said he wasn’t surprised to learn that the proposed ordinance had strengthened.
“It’s being framed as a health issue, but the reality is that it’s not a health issue because it’s not statewide,” he said.
Opponents of the proposal have said they would support a statewide smoking ban because it would offer a level playing field. They argue that if San Antonio enacts a smoke-free ordinance, then the market would shift to nearby municipalities and business would suffer.
[Mayor Julian] Castro says he doesn’t buy that argument.
“I’d just say the overwhelming evidence indicates that the smoking ban is either neutral or beneficial to bars and restaurants in terms of revenue,” he said. “More people will frequent non-smoking establishments.”
The Lege has tried and failed to pass a statewide smoking ban in each of the last two sessions. I continue to believe that such a thing will eventually pass, but who knows how long that could take. As for the allegations about city businesses losing out to those in the surrounding unincorporated county areas, all I can say is that I haven’t seen any evidence of that here. Doesn’t mean there isn’t any – maybe it’s just a greatly under-reported story – but it at least suggests that the concern is overblown. We’ll see how this plays out. More on the story here and here.