Aug 03 2017

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No Smoking? City ordinance would ban smoking in all public areas



By Sierra Flores
Special to the News

San Benito could soon become a completely smoke free city.
The City held a public hearing this past Tuesday in regards to a proposed Ordinance that would prohibit the smoking of tobacco and electronic smoking in certain enclosed and non-enclosed areas within San Benito city limits. Banned or regulated areas would include local parks, places of employment, restaurants, bars, private clubs, and sports arenas. Many concerned citizens packed the room at City Hall to express their support or opposition for the proposal.
“This outdoor area ordinance allows anyone walking down Sam Houston Boulevard to be subject to large fines,” stated a concerned San Benito local. “This would hurt small, local businesses that have already been struggling.”
Cameron County Health Department officials, American Heart Association representatives, and University of Texas Public Health professors made an appearance to also express their concerns of second hand smoke.
“Many health issues can be prevented with a comprehensive smoke free ordinance that simply ask people to move outside,” stated Smoke Free Texas representative. “A smoke free issue is a public health issue.”
The debate continued in regards to the exclusions of bars, reducing the distance required from the front door, and public property areas. San Benito officials all acknowledged the dangers of secondhand smoke, but are considering the risks to the economy as well.
“I really do feel for our business owners, this is their livelihood-I feel bars should be excluded,” stated Mayor Ben Gomez.”I think this would be a good ordinance, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s business.”
If passed, the ordinance would be enforced by SBPD, SBFD, and Code Compliance Divisions with a penalty for violation anywhere between a $200 to a $2,000 per day fine.
Even after the meeting, dozens of citizens voiced their opinions on our online poll.
Josie Rodriguez, a lifelong resident of San Benito stated, “I’m okay with it, because there are people who smoke around my children and me… it really does bother me,” she said. “Especially when my son is asthmatic and some people have zero regards to the people around them. If I were a smoker, I’d make sure it wouldn’t be around anybody.”
Others saw the ordinance as a bit of overkill.
“Not a smoker, but not sure what is prompting such action,” commented Leo Rodriguez. “Is the city receiving complaints, if so, how many, & by whom… Harlingen’s ban was and continues to be extremely unpopular, especially in the private business/clubs sector. Many choose not to frequent establishments that have such ordinances, and tend to take their business elsewhere.”
It is worth noting that no action was taken at the public hearing as Gomez noted he only wanted to gage public interest in the ordinance. Commissioners will decide on the ban at a later date.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2017/08/03/no-smoking-city-ordinance-would-ban-smoking-in-all-public-areas/

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