Health
8:38 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Smoking Ban Proposed For Patios - And Its Backers May Surprise You

Fewer than 1 in 5 Austinites identifies as a smoker, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. And those who smoke are finding it harder to do so -- Austin bars, restaurants and parks ban smoking. Major employers like UT and Samsung prohibit smoking on their campuses.

Now there’s a push to ban smoking at bar and restaurant patios as well.

The city’s Early Childhood Council is spearheading the effort to ban smoking at bar and restaurant patios. The council is appointed by Austin’s mayor and City Council members to provide advice on improving the lives of Austin’s children.

Chairman Kyle Holder says the proposal came to him last December from the city/county health department.

“When they came to present, they talked about, basically, second-hand-smoke being virtually the same outside versus inside, the effects that it had on kids,” Holder said.

Bar patios aren’t precisely hangouts for Austin kids. So why is the health department asking the Childhood Council to spearhead this proposal?

“We look at the data and we see that tobacco kills more than AIDS, crack, heroine, cocaine, alcohol, fire, murders, car accidents and suicide combined,” said Phil Huang, the health department’s medical director. “So it is sometimes surprising to us -- we hear about these policies and even some smokers support these because they say it will help them cut back.”

According to Holder, the proposal being crafted by Huang and his team is not ready to send to the council yet. A ban of this magnitude could affect as many as 600 venues that, in response to the indoor ban of 2005, built outside patios.