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Smoke-free Houston, ten years later

From the inbox:

It’s been 50 years since the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health and the harmful consequences from the use of tobacco. 2016 marks the 10th year of the adoption of Ordinance No. 2006-1054 prohibiting indoor smoking in Houston public areas and places of employment. Individuals could no longer smoke in enclosed public places and workplaces or within 25 feet of a building entrance and exit.

So, where are we now, ten years later?

The Houston Health Department has compiled a brief of the ordinance impact on Houston heath and economy, describing successes and future challenges ahead.

Here is what I blogged about the ordinance at the time. There was a social media campaign going on to promote this anniversary. It began on November 7, the day before the election when everyone was sure to tune into such a campaign, and it culminated on November 17, which is the date of the annual Great American Smokeout. Timing issues aside, the document linked at the top of this post is worth perusing. Fewer people are smoking in Houston, though we are not yet at the goal envisioned by this law, and there are measurable health benefits as a result. I certainly prefer this world to the one we used to live in.

Anyway. The Go Healthy Houston Facebook page is where you will see some of the social media stuff. There are concerns about e-cigarettes, which are becoming popular with the kids, and which are currently exempt from existing anti-smoking laws because e-cigs didn’t exist at the time those laws were passed. I’ve noted this before, and I’ll say again that I won’t be surprised if this eventually makes its way before Council for a tune-up on the no-smoking ordinance. There was legislation proposed in 2015 to ban the sale of e-cigs to minors, but none of the bills in question made it through. This too may come up again in 2017, not that it will be a priority. In the meantime, go visit a park or restaurant and enjoy the smoke-free air around you. It’s so much better this way.

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8 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. While I have personally enjoyed having businesses and government offices smoke free, I disagree with forcing private business to prohibit smoking. That is a decision that should be left to each business, since the business owner is the one paying the rent, the property taxes, the light bill, the employees, etc. Let the free market decide if smoke free is good or bad. Smoke free in government buildings? Yes, I’m good with that.

    Personally, all things being equal, I’d prefer to work and shop in a smoke free environment, but I don’t agree with forcing businesses to be smoke free, if they don’t want to be.

  2. mollusk says:

    This is a health measure, pure and simple. It means that the 80% of the people who don’t smoke (http://www.gallup.com/poll/156833/one-five-adults-smoke-tied-time-low.aspx) aren’t forced to smoke from time to time, including those employees of places that would otherwise allow smoking, since having a “no smoking” area in an enclosed place is like having a “no peeing” part of the swimming pool.

    It allows those who don’t want to be around smoke, or those who can’t be around smoke, the freedom to go where they want at any time, granted at the expense of those who want to smoke, who are sent to outdoor smoking areas, their own homes, or their cars.

    Full disclosure: I used to smoke like Pittsburgh, including on elevators, in airplanes, in theaters, in grocery stores, and in non smokers’ spaces unless asked not to. I was not particularly put out by earlier, more limited measures, such as making planes smoke free sometime around 1990. I eventually developed a pretty nasty allergy to tobacco smoke that facilitated my quitting; once this ordinance passed it was nice to be able to return to places that I hadn’t been able to patronize for the preceding 5 years +/- if I didn’t want to wake up with a chest full of phlegm (or clothes and hair that smelled like an ashtray).

    Regarding vaping, I’d rather not be forced to breathe that, either, until we can establish that unknown substances of unknown provenance aren’t harmful when someone heats them to the smoking point and blows them your way. It is a good way to point out the entitled jackasses at twenty paces, though.

  3. brad moore says:

    Feel free to substitute any term in the [brackets] of this word game for letting the free market forces do their magic.

    “I have mixed feelings about this. While I have personally enjoyed having businesses and government offices [racist] free, I disagree with forcing private business to prohibit [racism]. That is a decision that should be left to each business, since the business owner is the one paying the rent, the property taxes, the light bill, the employees, etc. Let the free market decide if [racism] is good or bad. [Racism] free in government buildings? Yes, I’m good with that.

    Personally, all things being equal, I’d prefer to work and shop in a [racism] free environment, but I don’t agree with forcing businesses to be [racism] free, if they don’t want to be.”

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @Brad:

    I really don’t understand what message it is you art trying to send. I’m a libertarian. I believe an individual or business has the right to set the rules on property they own or lease, and I don’t apologize or feel bad for that.

    That doesn’t mean I support smoking, racism, or whatever [fill in the blank] evil de jour you want to scare up for us. It means what it means. You pay the property taxes, the insurance, the light bill, the water bill, etc. at your house. Don’t you think you should be able to set the rules at your house? The same goes for businesses. You want people who have no skin in the business to dictate how that business should run? How would you like it if I came over to your house and started making diktats about how you should run your house? I bet you wouldn’t like it, or agree that I should be making those diktats.

    Again, I think I have a perfectly reasonable and moderate position. Government can dictate non smoking in government buildings. Great. I like that, and benefit from that, since I hate the smell of smoke. Dictating no smoking in privately owned buildings? Even though I personally benefit, I think that’s another example of government overreach.

  5. voter_worker says:

    Bill, I get the basis of your thought on this type of law. I’m curious why you on the other hand want to force businesses to not have free choice and hire only citizens. Since you seem to support the imposition of hiring rules in the area of citizenship, why are you against sensible rules on businesses in the areas of health and discrimination?

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    @Voter:

    I never said I wanted businesses to be subjected to laws requiring only legal people be employed. The government is responsible for enforcing immigration law, not a business owner. The business owner should be able to hire anyone he wants, and at any wage that is acceptable to the employee. I’m not a big fan of minimum wage and other labor laws, either, with the exception of labor laws relating to children. Children are not adults, and as such, should have some protections from the nanny state, because they are minors. I don’t believe adults need those protections. Don’t like a job because of pay, working conditions, etc.? Quit and work somewhere else, or start your own business.

  7. voter_worker says:

    To my simple mind, deporting a significant sector of the work force is a State intervention in voluntary relationships.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    @Voter:

    That’s a pretty reasonable and positioned libertarian view….people should be free to move across the globe and work at will. In this narrow instance, I’m the conservative trying desperately to cling to my hard earned money, and you are the principled libertarian, promoting individual freedom above all else. Ironic, huh?