Following a trend that is occurring in numerous cities across the country, the city will extend its ban of smoking already enforced in most public indoor spaces, outdoor stadiums and within 25 feet of buildings to larger outdoor areas as well beginning September 2. The downtown library facilities will actually be the first to enforce the outdoor ban starting today.
There are 36 other cities in Texas and numerous others throughout the country that have implemented similar bans. The report in the Houston Chronicle pointed out that Houston's ban on smoking has lagged well behind that of other major cities. Houston banned smoking in indoor establishments including bars and restaurants in 2007.
The new rule will apply to all public parks and spaces including pools and golf courses and was made with little fanfare because it did not require a vote of City Council. However, council members and the mayor were quick to praise the decision.
"Millions of Houstonians, many of them children, utilize our city parks and libraries. They deserve to be able to play and learn without being exposed to harmful secondhand smoke," Parker said in a statement. "Likewise, city employees at these facilities also deserve healthy work environments."
Anyone who remembers life before about 1990 can certainly recall the dense smoke that filled vehicles, public transportation, restaurants, bars and even airplanes. In the intervening years, the link between secondhand smoke and cancer was underscored by health professionals and municipalities -- even entire states like California -- slowly began placing restrictions on smoking, first in government facilities and eventually all public places.
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It has gotten to the point that it is surprising to walk into a public place and find people smoking legally as is the case in some particularly small towns around Texas. Here in Houston starting September 2, there will be fewer places for smokers to light up than ever.