Residents voice opinion on proposed citywide public smoking ban

Assistant News Editor

The San Marcos City Council held a public hearing for a proposed anti-smoking ordinance at a meeting Tuesday night.

The ordinance’s intent is to reduce second-hand smoke in public and has been renamed the “Smoking in Public Places Act.”

The ordinance will ban smoking in any public place or park, in enclosed areas owned by the city, enclosed workplaces, and will make it a violation if an owner of an establishment fails to keep customers from smoking. It will also require the placement of anti-smoking signage, removal of ashtrays from buildings, and will ensure those who report smoking violations will be protected from retaliation. Students in San Marcos Public schools will receive comprehensive tobacco education as well under the ordinance.

The city council discussed the possibility of “grandfathering” some businesses, or letting important businesses with a history of allowing smoking to keep on doing so.

John Thomaides, Place 3, said grandfathering would pit some establishments against others and “create an uneven playing field.”

Mayor Daniel Guerrero said a bar owner on the Square said he was opposed to grandfathering when asked about it in a survey earlier this year.
The councilmembers also pointed out that some businesses had never even heard of the ordinance. Assistant City Manager Collette Jamison said a postcard had been mailed to businesses who allowed smoking, warning them about the ordinance.

Owners of Triple Crown and Chance’s Bar said they had never received a post card in the mail. Thomaides said he sent out many postcards for his business and he would always have people saying they never got one.  Thomaides said the San Marcos City Council had the responsibility to make these sorts of decisions and the council should vote with its conscience.

Matt Nolan, a clinical manager at the Central Texas Medical Center spoke in favor of the act.

Nolan said a smoking ordinance was “good for everyone’s health” and would give the opportunity to make “beautiful” San Marcos more attractive. Nolan said it would lead to lower health care costs and less absenteeism at workplaces.

Alan Manning, the owner of Triple Crown, was against the act.

Manning said his music venue had hosted 6,058 shows since 1997 and a smoking ban would threaten that long-running history. 40 percent of his business comes from smokers and there would be a 30 percent reduction in sales, Manning said.

Manning said Triple Crown only makes money on 3 to 4 nights of the week and the majority of the business’s profits come from people who smoke there during the day. He said he was representing his customers and they were “very happy” he had come to city council.

Phillip Wong, a doctor representing Austin and Travis County, said tobacco kills more people than heroin and cocaine combined. He said 30 states now have smoke-free ordinances.

With regard to economic impact, Wong said according to data from Austin businesses, there was no drop in sales after a similar ban was passed. He said other studies had come to the same conclusion. People thought the Austin ban would run restaurants out of business, but that never happened, Wong said.

Wong said less than 20 percent of adults use tobacco and 70 percent of smokers want to quit.

Johnny Finch, the owner of Chance’s Bar, spoke out against the act.

He said San Marcos’s bar industry would be affected by the act. He said there was already an ordinance that has worked since 1995.

Finch said bar owners had not been asked for input on the matter and he had only found out about the ordinance two weeks ago.  Finch said he was a veteran from the Vietnam War and came back with a “belief in freedom,” and the act was not representative of that freedom.  The ordinance would hurt him and his customers economically as well, Finch said. He said people who don’t smoke already have plenty of places to go where smoking was banned.

“If you do not like what you see, you can go somewhere else,” Finch said.