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April 14, 2009 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS SMOKING BAN

Sen. Ellis
Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston proposed the bill to ban smoking in public places in Texas.

(AUSTIN) — Texas would join 24 other states in outlawing smoking in public venues under a bill considered Tuesday before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Twenty-eight Texas cities, including Dallas, Houston and Austin, already have public smoking bans on the books, and SB 544, by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, would extend this ban to all cities in the state. Ellis testified that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and that it constitutes a real public health risk. "Our state and our state's employers need to embrace policies and programs that will truly clear the air, improve health for every Texan, and make a positive contribution to managing rising health care costs in Texas," he said.

The bill would ban smoking at all public places, including bars and restaurants, as well as within 15 feet of entrances to public places. State and local health officials would be responsible for enforcing the ban, and could fine both smokers and business owners that fail to obey the ban. The bill makes exceptions for hotels and motels, as long as smoking rooms are contiguous on a floor and don't make up more than 20 percent of all rooms. Other exceptions include bingo halls and fraternal or veterans organizations, tobacco bars or bars where 15 percent or more of their revenue comes from selling tobacco products. Smoking in a private residence, provided it is not used as a day care facility, would not be prohibited.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 15 at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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