Cedar Park Councilman recommends workplace initiative following results of smoking survey

Williamson County

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Cedar Park City Council unveiled the results of a smoking survey sent out to the public at Thursday night’s meeting.

Created and distributed by Council Member Rodney Robinson, 165 residents and business owners responded and revealed the majority would be in favor of a smoking and vaping ordinance.

The current ordinance in Cedar Park only bans smoking if it takes place within a city-owned building.

“It shall be an offense for a person to possess a burning tobacco product, smoke tobacco or operate an Electronic Vaping Device in any city building belonging to or in use by the city,” the ordinance reads.

Smokers KXAN spoke to said having select places in Cedar Park which allows tobacco and vaping usage maintains their right to choose.

“It is a health risk, I understand that. However, there are still smokers and they have a choice and a right,” said Aleida Castilloa, who said she has smoked recreationally since she was a teenager.

“The rights of smokers have been totally taken away from them,” Castillo said of businesses where tobacco smoking is banned. “Where is the choice? Where is the freedom to decide?”

Non-smokers KXAN spoke to said they consider patio smoking a compromise, but wouldn’t frequent any bar or restaurant that allowed smoking indoors.

“It’s been proven scientifically that its not healthy. It’s a personal choice but I feel that if someone is smoking in a place, its infringing on my right to not smoke and not have to smell the secondhand smoke,” said Bret Adams.

Councilman Robinson said he was made aware of public distaste to smoking during his campaign. He wanted to gauge the level of interest in a potential law change.

“It was brought to my attention by a few residents that they would like to see some type of smoking ordinance as a result of being exposed to secondhand smoke,” the councilman wrote on his Facebook page. “Personally, I’m not a fan of increased government or business regulation. However, I feel it’s part of my job as a councilman to understand resident concerns and do what I can to help improve our city.”

The survey yielded results from 149 residents and 16 business owners. 55 percent of residents said they were in favor of a smoking/vaping ordinance. 54 percent said they were in favor of a smoking/vaping initiative.

56 percent of business owners said they would be in favor of a smoking/vaping ordinance. In contrast, 56 percent of business owners would be against a smoking/vaping initiative.

Based on these results, and after discussing the results with the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce president Tony Moline, Robinson developed a compromise.

At Thursday’s city council meeting, Robinson recommended what he calls a “healthy workforce initiative.”

With the help of the chamber, businesses would receive incentives to make healthy decisions for its customers and employees. This way, a smoking ban does not become mandatory and owners maintain their right to choose.

“When people are healthy at work, they show up, they work, they are more productive and that’s what we want to get across. We want business owners to have good employees and good business,” Council Member Robinson said. “We are promoting health and we are promoting safety and we are not making it mandatory.”

City staff will now look at the feasibility and the possible framework of a healthy workforce initiative and will present the findings at some point in the future for further discussion.

Smoking in Austin

Austin city ordinances allows smoking on patios but not inside a workplace like a restaurant and bar. The city council also plans to continue discussing healthy smoking habits for its residents.

At the February 6 city council meeting, council will take up an agenda item which would make changes “relating to the lawful age for the sale or delivery of cigarettes, tobacco products, or electronic smoking devices in compliance with Senate Bill 21 of the 86th Legislature.”

State Smoking Action

Between 2007 and 2015, Texas lawmakers have failed five times at passing a full ban on smoking in public places. We couldn’t find any bills filed in the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions.

According to the American Lung Association, Texas is one of 22 states that has weaker restrictions when it comes to smoking.

However, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law after the last session that raises the tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old. There is an exemption for members of the military.

Texas Medical Association Message

TMA supports regulations and legislative action establishing all public places and workplaces, including any place where people seek medical care, day care facilities, residential daycare facilities, public and private schools, prisons, and airplanes, and bars and restaurants as smoke-free environments. Surrounding grounds also should be made smoke-free for a distance sufficient not to expose others to secondhand smoke. TMA urges its members, county and state medical societies, and the American Medical Association to facilitate and support the establishment and enforcement of smoke-free policies and ordinances in the above locations and to promote, honor, and help publicize companies and governmental agencies that become smoke-free.

Texas Medical Association

Vaping-related illnesses

More cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported.

As of Tuesday, the CDC said just over 2,600 cases of lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes have been reported. At least 57 deaths have been reported in 27 states including Washington D.C. Three of the deaths were in Texas.

How do you feel about smoking in your city?

If you have an opinion to share, I want to hear it! E-mail Alex Caprariello at alexc@kxan.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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