Smoking Ban Debate Will Continue In City Council

A possible smoking cigarettes ban in El Campo’s restaurants, bars and other public places took a step forward Monday night.

City Council directed staff to collect information on how a ban would be implemented and enforced along with samples of other municipalities’ ordinances.

In a survey seeking public input on park needs earlier this year, the city included a question on whether smoking cigarettes should be prohibited in public businesses.

Only 1,000 of the surveys went out to targeted residents throughout El Campo and 427 were returned. Of those, 404 responded to the question on smoking cigarettes with 58.4 in favor of the ban. Of remaining respondents, 22 percent said they supported smoking cigarettes and 14 percent said they didn’t know.

“I have a little bit of a hard time with it,” Mayor Richard Young said. “Personally, I would have said get rid of it, but it’s a question of fair government. It’s free choice to patronize a specific businesses.”

Councilman Steve Ward said he had heard from business owners wanting to stop the ban.

“I got an earful the other way. That 58.4 percent,” Councilman Ed Erwin said.

Ward suggested putting the question to a public vote.

Councilman Chase Nielsen questioned how, and if, the city could separate a restaurant from a bar.

“I don’t think it would be good for business in bars,” he said.

Erwin pointed out bans in major cities,

“I have a hard time with government telling people what to do without hearing more,” Ward said. “I’d like to hear from them.”

For now, staff will research the issue.