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Time to enact smoking ban

The Denton City Council has appointed an advisory committee to study the issue of public smoking, and we hope the appointees will drop by a few places where smokers hang out before making their final recommendation.

There’s nothing quite like secondhand smoke to ruin your appetite, especially when you walk through a cloud of it on your way into a restaurant where smoking isn’t allowed but where noxious fumes sneak inside every time someone opens a door.

The city staff has offered a time frame to develop an ordinance that could be put in front of the council by the end of 2012, according to city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker.

That means smokers may have fewer places to light up in Denton next year, and that’s just fine with us.

And we’re not alone. The city has heard from many residents since the council first discussed the matter in a January work session, and several have asked the council to pass a smoke-free workplace ordinance for Denton. 

“We’re still getting e-mails,” Baker said.

Public smoking bans aren’t new. California implemented a statewide ban for most public places in the mid-1990s. Most states have passed a statewide ban in recent years.

State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Corinth, introduced legislation for a statewide smoking ban in 2011, but the matter failed. It was the third time a comprehensive smoking ban had been introduced at the state level.

Some business owners always complain that they’ll lose business if smoking is banned, but we believe the benefits of a smoke-free environment far outweigh their concerns. And the number of new customers who might be encouraged to try an establishment because they can see and breathe better without smoke might just outnumber those lost.

Plus, as Crownover has pointed out, waiters, bartenders and other workers are exposed to secondhand smoke, and that costs Texas taxpayers in additional Medicaid expenses.

During a work session in January, City Council members learned that Houston and El Paso had both studied the impact of the smoking bans there and found little evidence it affected sales in bars and restaurants.

More than 30 Texas cities have enacted smoking bans for enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Many North Texas cities — including Dallas, Flower Mound, Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Richardson, Rowlett and Southlake — have adopted such bans in the last five years.

We think the time has come for Denton to join them.