San Marcos city councilmembers unanimously approved a ban prohibiting residents from smoking in public places, businesses and city-owned areas Tuesday.
Councilmembers debated aspects of the ordinance during the Sept. 17 meeting. In an effort to reduce secondhand smoke, the ordinance bans smoking in any public place or park, in enclosed areas owned by the city and enclosed workplaces. Owners of establishments will be in violation of the ordinance if they fail to keep customers from smoking.
The ordinance requires establishments to display anti-smoking signage, remove ashtrays from buildings and ensure those who report smoking violations will be protected from retaliation. San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District students will also receive tobacco education under the ordinance.
Councilmembers also voted to add two amendments to the ordinance. Under the first amendment that passed 6-1, businesses can apply for a special permit to place in their front windows. If owners display the permit before June 1, 2014, they will have until Jan. 1, 2015 to let people smoke in their establishments until an outdoor area where smoking is permitted is built. Businesses who fail to post the permit will not be allowed the extra time.
“I support the ordinance as long as it includes an exception for outdoor decks,” said Councilman Jude Prather, Place 2, in a letter presented at the meeting due to his absence.
Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3, was the only member who voted against the first amendment. Thomaides said he had problems with “creating levels and advantages” for certain businesses.
The first amendment was proposed by Councilman Ryan Thomason, Place 5, as a way to give businesses more time to comply with a controversial ordinance.
“I was just trying to give a little leniency,” Thomason said.
Acceptable outdoor areas for smoking are decks and similar structures, according to the ordinance.
The second amendment, which passed 5-2, states residents cannot smoke within 15 feet of a banned location. Councilwoman Kim Porterfield, Place 1 and Councilman Shane Scott, Place 6, voted against it.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero compared the anti-smoking ordinance to the ordinance that bans the public consumption of alcohol in San Marcos parks. He said more emphasis will be placed on education in the coming months and enforcement will be stricter after nine to 10 months.