Smoking Ban Supporters Choke Off Opposition
Health advocates prevailed Saturday over supporters of property rights as a proposition to repeal the city's smoking ban was defeated.


Health advocates prevailed Saturday over supporters of property rights as a proposition to repeal the city's smoking ban was defeated. With all precincts reporting, 20,817 votes were cast in the smoking proposition -- 13,256, or 64 percent, against repealing a smoking ban, and 7,509 for the repeal.

"I think the voters of Lubbock won," Smokeless Lubbock Coalition's Rose Chase said. "All the citizens of Lubbock are winners. The voters spoke. This is the democratic process." Donna Bacchi, another coalition member, said, "We've said all along people want smoke-free public places. This proves it."

According to a Smokeless Lubbock survey last year, 82.5 percent of Lubbock residents consider themselves non-smokers, and 69.3 percent believe smoking should be banned in restaurants. The Smokeless Lubbock Coalition received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to wage their war to snuff out smoking. The coalition supported the ban on public smoking that ultimately was ap proved by the City Council last year.

After the council adopted the ban, the Vote for Freedom Coalition formed to organize a petition and ask voters to repeal the ban. "I'm satisfied. This is what we promised we'd do, bring it to the voters, and we did," Russell King, a Freedom Coalition organizer said. King also is chairman of the Lubbock County Libertarian Party, and he said the party will not attempt a second repeal. King said he believed Smokeless Lubbock's money played a key role in the outcome.

The Texas division of the American Cancer Society provided $30,000 in pledges and contributions to Smokeless Lubbock, followed by the American Cancer Society's pledge of $20,000 from its Austin office and another $4,000 from the Lubbock office.

Gary Bowe and his wife said they voted against repealing the current ordinance because they oppose smoke in restaurants, and their granddaughter is asthmatic. The couple said they were glad the issue was brought before voters.

Richard Newman said he voted against the proposition, much to the disappointment of his 21-year-old daughter, who does not smoke, but believes in people's right to do so. "I believe in owners' rights, but smoking is a hazard to people's health," Newman said. "Their liberty is at the end of my nose."

Kathy LeMaster said she opposed the issue because her mother died of lung cancer. Her husband, Jake, also voted against. "I can't stand the smell of smoke," Jake LeMaster said. He said he believes the restriction on smoking will increase business instead of harm it.

Cliff Hunter said he does not smoke, but he voted for the measure because "there are too many regulations." If the trend continues, Hunter said, the government will try to stop people from smoking in their own homes. The debate has pitted an individual's right to clean air against business owners' right to set their own policies.

Smokeless Lubbock Coalition members cited medical studies that, they said, proved secondhand tobacco smoke causes cancer and other health problems. They believe government regulation is warranted because the matter is a public health issue.

The Vote for Freedom Coalition disputes the dangers, asserting that the medical claims have been exaggerated. Government intervention is not necessary because customers may choose between smoking and smoke-free businesses, coalition representatives said.

In January 2001, the City Council appointed an advisory committee to review the city's smoking ordinance. After two public hearings and one heated public meeting, the committee voted 6-5 to recommend tougher measures. The City Council followed the committee's recommendation but drafted its own version, which passed, 4-3.

The ordinance took effect in October. It forces business owners to provide a separate room with separate ventilation if they wish to accommodate smokers. The old ordinance allowed business owners to designate smoking sections.

Some business owners applied for a permit that gave them three years to comply. Bars, bowling alleys and sports grills are exempt from the ban.

May 6, 2002