EDITORIAL: Breathing better air in McAllen

The dangers and health risks of smoking and those caused by second-hand smoke are readily documented and well known. So we applaud the McAllen City Commission for its action on Monday night to enact a tough, no-smoking policy, for businesses and most public venues located within its city limits.

In doing so, the City of McAllen becomes the 84th city in Texas to adopt what is called a “comprehensive smoking ordinance.” And we believe it’s about time.

There was pushback from City Commissioner John Ingram who argued before commissioners that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions of whether to smoke. But we would argue that, unfortunately, if there is a smoker nearby then one cannot make the decision not to inhale stale smoke-filled air from their second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke, the American Lung Association says, causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year.

Not allowing smoking in workplaces, inside restaurants and bars and at city parks will safeguard the health of McAllen residents, yet will still allow those who want to practice the unhealthy habit of smoking to go to designated outside areas, if they so choose.

On hand at the City Commission meeting Monday night were dozens of anti-smoking advocates wearing red T-shirts and bearing signs. There was a mother whose daughter had been a bartender and who died from complications of working in a smoky bar. There were doctors, parents and children present, also. All were asking for the ability to breathe air not polluted with cigarette smoke when they are out and about.

We wish the ordinance had extended to bingo halls, as well, but alas, that provision was not included in the new ordinance. Also excluded are businesses that derive 40 percent of their sales from tobacco.

Asking smokers to exit a building and be at least 10-feet from the entrance before they light up is a reasonable request. It appears to be working in Austin where the cloistered and popular Sixth Street bars are also now smoke-free yet still attract thousands of club-goers each night.

We encourage city officials to help work with McAllen businesses that will be affected by this new ordinance, which could take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Helping businesses to designate and carve out special outdoor smoking patios and areas will be key to preventing these establishments from losing clients and revenue.

While we recognize the City of McAllen is struggling with sales tax income right now, we still believe that those who crave fun and excitement, a night out, or a dinner out, will still be able to do so under the new ordinance, and it will help us to all be healthier in the process.

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