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March 1, 2011 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS SMOKING BAN

(AUSTIN) — The Senate Health and Human Services considered a bill Tuesday that would ban smoking indoors in public places. This is the third session in a row that Houston Senator Rodney Ellis has filed such a measure. He believes reducing exposure to secondhand smoke will improve the state's overall health as well as saving Texas some money. "Our state and our state's employers need to embrace policies that truly clear the air, improve the health of every Texan, and surely make a positive contribution towards managing rising healthcare costs," he said.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, Sen. Kirk Watson
Houston Senator Rodney Ellis (left) talks with his colleague Senator Kirk Watson of Austin. Ellis presented a bill before a Senate committee Tuesday that would ban smoking indoors in public places.

Ellis said studies estimate a public smoking ban would bring savings of more than $31 million in Medicaid costs to the state in the next two years. A study released by Smokefree Texas last week estimated more than $400 million in savings biannually in healthcare and productivity. More than that, Ellis said, it could help prevent some of the 56,000 deaths in the U.S. each year attributable to secondhand smoke exposure.

Ellis's bill, SB 355, would make it illegal to smoke in public places indoors, including bars and restaurants. It would not prevent smoking in a private residence, in a hotel room designated for smoking, or outside patio areas at bars and restaurants provided the outdoor smoke cannot get back inside. The bill would fine owners that permit smoking indoors in violation of this proposed law, starting at $100 for a first offense and ranging up to $500 for future offenses.

Some of the biggest opponents to this measure are owners of tobacco and cigar bars that permit smoking at the venue. Ellis said he believes this session's bill will address these concerns, by providing an exemption for shops where tobacco makes up at least 15 percent of total sales. This bill remains pending before the committee.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 2 at 11 a.m.


Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.

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