Rio Grande City passes new smoking ordinance

Rio Grande City officially adopted a more comprehensive smoking ordinance last week prohibiting smoking indoors.

The new ordinance clarifies “public spaces” banning smoking in all indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars and workplaces. Vaping is also now prohibited.

It increases the distance that a smoker must keep from an entrance from 15 to 25 feet and changes the amount charged for a violation of the ordinance, which would be a misdemeanor, from $200 to $2,000.

The commissioners had approved the first reading of the new ordinance during a meeting in June.

The city’s previous smoking ordinance, passed in 2011, was itself an amendment to a previous ordinance by eliminating smoking in all sections of restaurants instead of allowing designated smoking areas that were separated by floor-to-ceiling partitions.

However, even that 2011 ordinance was not considered a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance because of its exclusion of certain indoor workplaces and vaping, according to Rosalie Weisfeld with the American Heart Association.

The city commissioners unanimously approved the new ordinance but will have a second reading before it is enacted.

By passing the ordinance, Rio Grande City becomes the 101st city in the state and the fourth city in Starr County to pass a comprehensive smoking-ordinance following La Grulla, Escobares and Roma.

bereniceg@themonitor.com