Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Smoke-Free Hearing....Now!

4:12 Dr. Phil Huang is now testifying on behalf of Smoke-Free Texas. He is speaking to the improvement of air quality seen in communities seen after smoke-free laws have been passed.

See the twitter updates on the right for updates on previous speakers.

4:20 Dallas County Medical Director John Carlo is up next. "Smoke-Free communities see an immediate and dramatic reduction in hospitalizations from heart attacks..."

4:24 Jeff Knisely is now speaking. Not only is he the Government Relations Director for the American Lung Associations but also a musician and performer. He is speaking to the burden put on live music performers forced to perform in smoke filled venues.

4:33 Comments from proponents of the SB 544 have concluded we are now hearing from the opposition.

4:35 I currently only see three of the nine senators that are on the committee. Eliot Shapleigh from El Paso, Joan Huffman from Houston and Robert Nichols from Jacksonville all appear present.

4:38 Chair Jane Nelson (Flower Mound) is now here. Thanks everyone for their testimony.

4:47 So far most of the opponents have been owners of tobaccos shops and cigar bars.

4:50 Senator Royce West, Dallas, is now present. Currently 5 of the 9 committee members are present.

5:00 Senator Carlos Uresti, San Antonio is now here.

5:15 Mostly business owners are testifying, fearful of losing business. It is important to note that all objective studies on smoke-free laws show no adverse economic impact to in cities and states where similar laws have been passed.

Only 19% of Texans are smokers so any potential loss of business could easily be made up by a larger percentage of the populace being more likely to visit your establishment.

5:25 Another argument against smoke-free workplaces, is the business rights angle. "the government shouldn't tell people how to run their businesses..." Opponents fail to mention the numerous safeguards that government puts on business to safeguard consumers. Things from food temperature to cleanliness of the restaurant are routinely regulated. And most people think those regulations are pretty good ideas.

5:40 Opponents continue to testify against SB 544. Most argue that it infringes on personal rights. They fail to point out we simply ask people to go outside when they smoke. Under current language in the bill smokers will be allowed to re-enter the establishment after they go outside.

5:45 Great testimony from a Tyler City Council member who talked about his experience about passing a comprehensive ordinance in Tyler last year. "We were open minded going into the process, but cam to the conclusion that it was primarily a health issue..."

6:04 Oral testimony has concluded. Nelson is reading those who submitted written testimony.

6: 07 Public testimony is over. The bill has been left pending, which means they will vote on it at a later date. The next time the Health and Human Services committee will meet is Thursday, so hopefully it will be passed then!

Visit http://www.smokefreetexasnow.org/ to tell your lawmakers to vote Yes on SB 544. Thanks!



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