Monday, December 22, 2008

What Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus will mean for Smoke-Free Texas

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When looking at factors that will contribute to passing a statewide smoke-free bill next session I don’t think you can overstate the importance of local communities going smoke-free and “paving the way” so to speak. Cities like Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus Christi have all passed comprehensive smoking ordinances since the Texas Legislature adjourned in May of 07. State lawmakers will return on January 13th and so will we in support of Smoke-Free Texas.

Local communities going smoke-free help a statewide movement in several key ways:

-Momentum
With two big cities going smoke-free including the second most populous in the state, we have great momentum heading into the legislative session. Just look at the effect Houston had when they went smoke-free just before the start of the 07 Session.

It was questionable whether a statewide smoke-free bill would even be filed. One strategy was to educate the public and lawmakers on the issue in 2007 and 2008 and then file legislation in 2009. Houston changed all of that. After their smoke-free ordinance passed not only was legislation filed, but it ended up garnering 60 co-authors getting passed out of committee, and getting passed by the House. It went on to pass a Senate committee before finally dying in the Senate before a vote could be taken.

-Socially Acceptable
When lots of cities go smoke-free, smoke-free laws become more socially acceptable and smoking indoors in public becomes less socially acceptable. Remember when you could smoke on airplanes?? Thankfully, that was outlawed years ago and now it would be unthinkable to light up in a plane.

Right now in many places it is still socially acceptable to smoke in bars and other worksites. One of our main obstacles is to change that "acceptability" factor.

-Less Drastic
Another way that cities going smoke-free will help our statewide effort is that it makes a statewide law less drastic. No lawmaker is in favor of “big government” or telling local communities what to do, so if only 5% of a state is smoke-free it will be tough to convince legislators to pass something that will cover the other 95%. Conversely, if 60-70% of a state is already covered it is easier to take a step that will cover everyone. Which brings me to my next point…..

-Unincorporated Areas
The more cities going smoke-free underscores the need for a statewide law because county governments can’t enact smoke-free laws. Simply put, this means that even if every city in the state goes smoke-free a significant amount of Texans will not be covered because many business fall outside of city limits in what is called “unincorporated areas”

The need for action by our state legislators is no more apparent than when discussing unincorporated areas. They are the only ones who can shore up the pockets of state that are unincorporated and unprotected.

-Level Playing Field
Another product of many cities going smoke-free is the appearance of an “un-level” playing field among business. Some cities have smoke-free laws while others do not. Some have strong comprehensive ordinances while others have less restrictive laws. As stated above unincorporated areas don’t have any smoke-free laws meaning a suburban community could be next door to a city with a strong ordinance.

What you have is a hodgepodge of different laws that can be confusing and hard to follow. We favor one simple law that will cover all worksites in the state.

Can you think of any other ways that Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus can help a statewide bill pass next year? Post any comments below....

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator
American Heart Association

Brian.Bowser@heart.org
512.433-7169

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Corpus Christi Goes Smoke-Free!

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The Corpus Christi City Council just voted in favor of strengthening their smoke-free law to cover all workplaces! The measure passed by a 6-3 vote and will eliminate smoking in all bars, billiard halls, bingo halls, and other worksites.

With Dallas going smoke-free last week and Corpus Christi taking this step today we are well on our way towards making Texas Smoke-Free. Thanks to all of the You’re the Cure advocates who helped make this possible.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breaking News....

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Dallas City Council passes comprehensive smoking ordinance!! Thanks to all of the You're the Cure advocates who made this possible. Final vote count: 10 in favor 5 in opposition.

Other details on the ordinance:

-The Smoke-Free law will cover all restaurants, bars, billiard rooms, bingo halls, and other entertainment venues.
-No smoking will be allowed within 15 feet of an entrance
-The law will go into effect on April 10
-The only establishments that were excluded from the law are tobacco shops and cigar bars generating at least 15% of revenue from the sale of tobacco or tobacco related products.

Live From City Hall

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11:30 am The Dallas City Council is currently debating strengthening the current local ordinance. There was discussion on whether to delay the vote. There was a motion, but it failed.

Stay tuned for more details...

Currently, those individuals opposing the smoke-free ordinance are speaking. Each side will have 12 minutes.
12:12 pm A motion was considered to allow both sides 5 extra minutes to speak. The motion passed.
12:34 pm Those in favor of smoke-free Dallas are now speaking. American Heart Association volunteer and co-chair of our State Advocacy Committee Dr. Amit Khera is first at the podium.
1:10 pm Comments from the general public have concluded. Now each council member will comment on the ordinance. Discussion on proposed amendments will follow.
1:30 pm Discussion is still underway. We've made it easy for our volunteers and staff to stay involved today. Boxed lunches are available in the common areas and many of us are sharing lap tops to stay connected. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
1:40 pm Many of us from Austin are scheduled for a 2:30pm flight out. We expected the vote have wrapped by now. We're trying to rebook our flights. I'm amazed at the number of AHA National Center Staff that are still here. The support has been overwhelming and we are grateful for their participation. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
2:00 pm We believe from a statement by a council member that we just gained one YES vote. However, the council is still going at it strong and each council member is making a statement. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
2:01 pm It sounds like they are about to vote on an amendment to grandfather in pool halls (and make them exempt from a smoke-free law), as well as prohibit smoking in cars if a child is a passenger. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now is the Time

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The Dallas City Council just concluded a briefing on strengthening its smoke-free law to include all workplaces. It is clear that while there is support from many council members, not all are convinced that now is the time to make Dallas Smoke-Free.

We need to make it clear that there is no better time to protect workers, reduce heart disease and build healthier lives than right now! Please go to http://www.SmokeFreeTexasNOW.org/ and tell the Dallas City Council to clear the air.

The Council announced it would take a vote next Wednesday, December 10th. We only have one week to convince the remaining members to make Dallas Smoke-Free. If you live in Dallas please take action today at the site above. If you live outside of Dallas, please forward the url above to friends, family, and colleagues in Dallas.

Now is the time!

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator
American Heart Association
512.433-7169
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Monday, December 1, 2008

Smoke-Free Dallas Racks Up the Endorsements

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The Smoke-Free Dallas campaign continues gain endorsements. Last week the Dallas Morning News wrote another editorial on the benefits of smoke-free air. This is at least the third in the last few months:

“The Dallas City Council's proposal to ban smoking in bars and pool halls is entirely consistent with its public-health obligations. It's also common sense.

Click here for the full story.

And today Lance Armstrong wrote an Op-Ed that appeared in the DMN:

“The Dallas City Council has a great opportunity to make a major advance against cancer this fall, and I am honored to add my voice to the many urging them to extend the ban on smoking.”

Secondhand smoke is also a leading risk factor for heart disease and other serious health problems. Click here for the rest.

Note: You may have to be registered to view the articles from the DMN, but's its free if you wish to sign up.

Keep in mind, we are less than two weeks away from the vote. Visit http://www.smokefreetexasnow.org/ to ensure Dallas is the next city to go Smoke-Free.

Brian Bowser
American Heart Association
512.433-7169
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

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