Council votes Arlington to "smoke-free" status

Following two previous meetings, the Council approved a smoking ordinance with several amendments meant to appease opposition

Zack Maxwell

Late into the evening and in a 7-to-2 vote, the Arlington City Council approved an amended smoking ordinance which will effectively make the city “100 percent smoke-free.”

For weeks, factions have clashed over the merits of a proposed expansion of the city’s longstanding smoking ordinance. Those in-favor of the ban surfaced on top after the Council fielded comments from approximately 50 residents Tuesday evening.

The approved ordinance expands Arlington’s smoking ban to night clubs, bars, and billiard halls among other places which were previously exempt. An exception was carved out for bingo parlors during an earlier meeting after multiple non-profit organizations suggested their scholarship and community investment funds – which receive state-mandated contributions from billiard halls -- might be negatively affected.

After receiving considerable opposition from bar owners at previous meetings, the Council agreed to reduce a requirement that smoking not occur within 50 feet of a smoke-free building. Officials compromised with a 15-foot distance measured only from the primary entrance, effectively allowing bars to retain smoking patios.

An exemption for electronic cigarettes was also added to the ordinance; appeasing multiple owners of vaping shops.

At least 73 Texas cities have achieved a smoke-free designation. It’s not clear what benefits are received from the designation.

Violation of the expanded ban could result in a fine up to $2,000, which drew criticism from those in opposition.

District 1 and District 3 council members Charlie Parker and Robert Rivera voted against the ban.

“I firmly believe this particular issue is a property rights issue and should be decided by the individual who has invested in the property,” Parker said. “If you don’t want to frequent an establishment which allows smoking, then don’t go.”

Effected establishments will have 90 days to come into compliance with the new regulations.