Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2011
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Senate Health & Human Services Committee Passes Smoking Ban

(AUSTIN) — By a vote of 5-3 the Senate Human Services Committee today passed historic legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) banning smoking in public places across Texas.

Senate Bill 355 will eliminate smoking in indoor public places, including municipal worksites and private worksites including restaurants, restaurant bars and stand-alone bars. The legislation exempts cigar bars and tobacco shops.

"The bottom line is that this bill will save lives," said Ellis. "The vast majority of Texans understand the impact smoking has on our health and our economy. Senate Bill 355 will improve the health of Texans and save our state billions of dollars in health care costs over time."

"I want to thank Chairwoman Jane Nelson for her leadership on this issue and for her dedication to the cause of creating a smoke-free Texas."

Secondhand smoke is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth weight, chronic lung ailments (such as bronchitis and asthma) and other health problems, and it leads to the death of 53,000 Americans each year studies have found. Of Texans polled by Smoke-Free Texas, over 70 percent of Texans support a statewide smoking ban and over 90 percent said they realized that secondhand smoke is a health hazard.

The statewide poll mirrors Texans' choice at the ballot box – 34 cities have passed comprehensive smoking bans and 250 others have passed more limited anti-smoking measures. Nationwide, 29 states have passed similar smoking bans.

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.

"This is a public health issue – one's personal freedom ends when it causes harm to others," said Ellis. "Food Service workers are 50% more likely to die from lung cancer than the general public. This common-sense reform will have an enormous impact combating a disease that is responsible for a fourth of all Texas deaths."

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