Poll: Texans Strongly Support a Smoke-Free State

    • January 29, 2009

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Texans support prohibiting smoking in all indoor work and public places, including restaurants and bars, according to a statewide poll released Thursday by Smoke-Free Texas, a coalition of public health organizations, at a press conference and rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol.

The poll, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that Texans understand that secondhand smoke exposure is a serious health hazard, and that 72 percent believe the rights of customers and employees to breathe clean air in restaurants and bars is more important than the rights of smokers and business owners.

“The first job of government is to protect the people and today, the people of Texas are sending a clear message to their elected representatives: they want protection from secondhand smoke,” said Lance Armstrong, founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is a member of Smoke-Free Texas. “All of us at Smoke-Free Texas and the Lance Armstrong Foundation applaud the leadership of the legislators championing comprehensive smoke-free legislation. Texans expect and deserve safe, smoke-free places to earn their living and support their families.”

Smoke-Free Texas is calling for a law that would provide statewide, comprehensive protections from secondhand smoke exposure in all indoor and public work places, including restaurants and bars.

Texans across the state increasingly recognize the benefits of a smoke-free environment. On January 22, College Station became the 28th Texas city to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. Three-fourths of Texans polled believe that air quality has improved because of these local ordinances. Local ordinances, however, don’t protect all Texans and can’t protect the 25 percent of the population who live in unincorporated areas.

“Every Texan has the right to breathe smoke-free air,” said Suzanne Lozano, a San Antonio nurse who is a member of the American Heart Association’s Texas State Advocacy Committee. “Each of us deserves strong, comprehensive protections from secondhand smoke in all indoor work places.”

Across the nation, 24 states have strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars—a significant increase from the 16 smoke-free states when the Texas Legislature convened in 2007, the first session lawmakers debated a smoke-free bill.

“The benefits of a statewide smoke-free law are undeniable,” said State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, author of House Bill 5. “It's good for health, good for business and saves money now spent on health care. It’s time for Texas to join the 24 other states that already have comprehensive smoking bans in place. No one should be forced to choose between their health and a paycheck.”

Secondhand smoke kills 53,000 non-smoking Americans annually and is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, premature birth and low birth weight, chronic lung ailments and other health problems. A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General—the most comprehensive scientific report ever produced on the health impact of secondhand smoke—concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Comprehensive smoke-free laws and ordinances have led to dramatic and immediate health benefits for employees and patrons, including significant drops in heart attack hospitalizations, numerous studies have found.

Similarly, other studies have found that smoke-free laws and ordinances do not impact revenue in restaurants or alcohol sales in bars, said State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, author of Senate Bill 544. Ellis’ hometown of Houston has had a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in place since September 2007. 

The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report stated, “Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry.”

“Business owners who worry that making Texas smoke-free will harm their livelihoods are worrying needlessly,” Ellis said. “Just as there’s undeniable evidence that smoke-free laws are good for health, there’s ample objective data, such as sales tax receipts, that show they also are good for business.”

Smoke-Free Texas, a coalition of public health organizations concerned about the dangers of secondhand smoke, is working to pass a statewide comprehensive smoke-free law. To learn more, visit www.smokefreetexas.org.   

NOTE: To obtain an electronic copy of the Smoke-Free Texas statewide poll executive summary, contact Kirsten Voinis, (512) 922-7141, or kvoinis@kvoinis.com.  Smoke-free fact sheets can be found at www.smokefreetexas.org.