Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 24, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Statewide Smoking Ban Snuffed Out

Legislation banning smoking in almost all indoor public & private workplaces fails on last day

AUSTIN -- Efforts to ban smoking in public places across Texas were finally extinguished today as the Senate failed to suspend the rules to bring up legislation after the deadline. The failure to suspend brings to an end a weeks-long effort by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Representative Myra Crownover (R-Denton) to build enough support to pass the measure into law.

House Bill 9 would have eliminated smoking in indoor public places, including municipal worksites and private worksites including restaurants, restaurant bars and stand-alone bars. The legislation levies a maximum fine of $100 for violators, but exempted cigar bars and tobacco shops.

"I am terribly disappointed that we were unable to ban smoking in public places," said Senator Ellis. "This bill would have absolutely saved lives. The vast majority of Texans understand the impact smoking has on our health and our economy. The legislation would have improved the health of Texans and save our state billions of dollars in health care costs over time."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 37 percent of adult nonsmokers inhale secondhand smoke at home or work. Levels of secondhand smoke in bars are 3.9 to 6.1 times higher than in office worksites and up to 4.5 times higher than in homes with at least one smoker, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A statewide poll commissioned earlier this year by the Smoke-Free Texas coalition found that 66 percent of Texans favor a statewide law eliminating smoking in all indoor workplaces and public facilities including public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars. The statewide poll mirrors Texans' choice at the ballot box -- 15 cities have passed comprehensive smoking bans and 47 others have passed more limited anti-smoking measures. Nationwide, 17 states have passed similar smoking bans, and another bill awaits the governor's signature in Maryland.

"I am pleased and surprised at the irony that we passed legislation to float $3 billion in bonds to fight cancer, but we could not pass a bill that costs no money but know keeps more people from getting cancer," said Ellis.

"I want to thank my friend, Representative Myra Crownover for all she did to try to get this important bill passed. She truly moved Heaven and Earth to get this done and nearly pulled off the impossible. I also want to thank the folks at the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the Texas Restaurant Association and all the staff who worked so hard to try to make this law."