A bill aimed at saving lives and money in Texas is getting a second chance at passage during the special legislative session. Monday afternoon, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services narrowly passed a bill to ban smoking Parliament in public places state-wide. “The ability to save 53,000 lives a year-that’s how many people die as a result of secondhand smoke.
That’s just such a powerful testimony in and of itself,” Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said.
Sen. Ellis is the author of Senate Bill 28. He says the proposed law would save the state $31 million in health care costs over the next two years.
“If the people on this side of the rotunda are serious about reducing healthcare costs and the incidents of cancer related to second hand smoke-it’s a good fit and we outta do it,” Sen. Ellis said.
Some restaurant and pool hall owners say that if the law passed it would hurt business, but many republican lawmakers see another problem.
“Although I would prefer that no one smoke in public places-I think it [a statewide ban] violates the Constitution. As a Senator, I’ve taken an oath to protect the Texas Constitution,” Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) said.
“As much as I abhor cigarette smoking and understand all the data with it-I think my oath to defend the Constitution takes precedence.”
During a brief public hearing on Monday, Dr. Philip Huang of the Smoke Free Texas Coalition referenced a study that asked how a statewide smoking ban would affect the number of people going out to places like bars and music venues.
“18.7 percent said they’d go out more often, only 8 percent said they’d go out less often and 73.3 percent said they’d be the same,” Dr. Huang said.
Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) represents the first major Texas city to go smoke-free in bars and restaurants, and says it is something all cities should support.
“El Paso over the last 10 years has had every positive results. It’s cutback on smoking, cut down on the cost of health care, and it has won over the people who were opposed to it,” Sen. Rodriguez said.
Sen. Ellis only needs 16 votes to pass the bill on the Senate floor, but he only has a few days to shore up the support.