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Edinburg considering comprehensive ban on smoking in effort to improve public health and help economic development, announces Edinburg EDC

Featured, from left, facing camera: Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development & Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; City Councilmember David Torres; and Agustín García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, as they met with leaders with major retail outlets during the statewide convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers, held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, on Wednesday, November 4, through Friday, November 6, 2015. Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr., Ellie Torres, Vice President of the EEDC Board of Directors, and Diego Reyna, Research Analyst, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, are not in this image, but they also participated in the statewide convention.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

A proposed ban on smoking in public facilities and most privately-owned businesses could soon become law in Edinburg, with city leaders confident such an action would help economic development as well as improve public health, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, during their regular meeting held at Edinburg City Hall, held a public hearing on a plan by the city to change the existing city ordinance in order to prohibit smoking in government buildings, as well as in at least 21 types of businesses, ranging from bars, motion picture theaters, and childcare and adult daycare facilities to restaurants, retail stores, and sports arenas. The measure, which still faces final action by the Mayor and City Council to make it official, is scheduled for the Tuesday, December 1, 2015 regular city council meeting. If approved, as currently worded, the proposed ordinance would carry up to a $2,000 fine upon conviction for what would be classified as a misdemeanor crime. However, the proposed ban would not affect smoking in a person’s residence, outdoor seating areas of a restaurant that are designated as smoking areas, private clubs which are not businesses, and would allow hotels and motels to set aside up to 25 percent of their rooms for smokers. No one spoke against the proposed smoking ban during the public hearing, with almost two dozen area residents showing up in favor of the smoking ban. If approved in its current form, the proposed ban would be in line with recent federal government report that smoke-free laws do not hurt restaurant and bar businesses, said Mark Iglesias, President of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. “In partnership with the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors and staff take very seriously our roles in improving the quality-of-life in our community, such as having helped bring a University of Texas medical school to our community, to protecting the public health while promoting the prosperity of our businesses,” said Iglesias. “One of the largest studies by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that smoking bans benefit the public and businesses.” The CDC is one of the major operating components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mayor García emphasized the smoking ban is being considered because it is the duty of the Mayor and City Council, to protect the health, safety, welfare, and wellbeing of its citizens. “Numerous studies have found that tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, and that breathing secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is a cause of disease in healthy nonsmokers, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, lung cancer,” the mayor said, citing information provided by city staff. The National Cancer Institute determined in 1999 that secondhand smoke is responsible for the early deaths of approximately 53,000 Americans annually, he added. “City staff has met with representatives of the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society and has discussed with other cities in our region, including Brownsville, Harlingen, and Brownsville, and elsewhere in Texas,” Mayor García said. “After review of the (smoking ban) studies and discussions as noted, the City of Edinburg finds that smoking tobacco is a form of air pollution, is a danger to health, and is a material public nuisance.” Agustín García, Jr., EEDC’s Executive Director, praised the Mayor and City Council for always considering high profile issues in the best interests of the public and of local businesses. “The quality-of-life of a city such is important in order to keep local businesses and bring in new businesses, because the public health resources and public health policies of a community are as important to businesses and their employees as are education, transportation, and public safety when deciding to expand, relocate, or set up a new firm in Edinburg,” the EEDC Executive Director said.

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City considering comprehensive ban on smoking in effort to improve public health and help economic development, announces Edinburg EDC

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A proposed ban on smoking in public facilities and most privately-owned businesses could soon become law in Edinburg, with city leaders confident such an action would help economic development as well as improve public health, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, during their regular meeting held at Edinburg City Hall, held a public hearing on a plan by the city to change the existing city ordinance in order to prohibit smoking in government buildings, as well as in at least 21 types of businesses, ranging from bars, motion picture theaters, and childcare and adult daycare facilities to restaurants, retail stores, and sports arenas.

The measure, which still faces final action by the Mayor and City Council to make it official, is scheduled for the Tuesday, December 1, 2015 regular city council meeting.

If approved, as currently worded, the proposed ordinance would carry up to a $2,000 fine upon conviction for what would be classified as a misdemeanor crime.

However, the proposed ban would not affect smoking in a person’s residence, outdoor seating areas of a restaurant that are designated as smoking areas, private clubs which are not businesses, and would allow hotels and motels to set aside up to 25 percent of their rooms for smokers.

No one spoke against the proposed smoking ban during the public hearing, with almost two dozen area residents showing up in favor of the smoking ban.

If approved in its current form, the proposed ban would be in line with recent federal government report that smoke-free laws do not hurt restaurant and bar businesses, said Mark Iglesias, President of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members.

“In partnership with the Mayor and Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors and staff take very seriously our roles in improving the quality-of-life in our community, such as having helped bring a University of Texas medical school to our community, to protecting the public health while promoting the prosperity of our businesses,” said Iglesias. “One of the largest studies by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that smoking bans benefit the public and businesses.”

The CDC is one of the major operating components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Established by Congress as an independent, nonprofit organization, the CDC Foundation connects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with private-sector organizations and individuals to build public health programs that make our world healthier and safer. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has provided $450 million to support CDC’s work, launched more than 750 programs around the world and built a network of individuals and organizations committed to supporting CDC and public health.

Mayor García emphasized the smoking ban is being considered because it is the duty of the Mayor and City Council, to protect the health, safety, welfare, and wellbeing of its citizens.

“Numerous studies have found that tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, and that breathing secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is a cause of disease in healthy nonsmokers, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, lung cancer,” the mayor said, citing information provided by city staff.

The National Cancer Institute determined in 1999 that secondhand smoke is responsible for the early deaths of approximately 53,000 Americans annually, he added.

“City staff has met with representatives of the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society and has discussed with other cities in our region, including Brownsville, Harlingen, and Brownsville, and elsewhere in Texas,” Mayor García said. “After review of the (smoking ban) studies and discussions as noted, the City of Edinburg finds that smoking tobacco is a form of air pollution, is a danger to health, and is a material public nuisance.”

Agustín García, Jr., EEDC’s Executive Director, praised the Mayor and City Council for always considering high profile issues in the best interests of the public and of local businesses.

“The quality-of-life of a city such is important in order to keep local businesses and bring in new businesses, because the public health resources and public health policies of a community are as important to businesses and their employees as are education, transportation, and public safety when deciding to expand, relocate, or set up a new firm in Edinburg,” the EEDC Executive Director said.

OTHER KEY LANGUAGE OF PROPOSED SMOKING BAN

According to city, the following words and phrases, whenever used in the proposed smoking ban, shall be construed as defined accordingly:

BAR means an establishment that is devoted to the serving of alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises and in which the serving of food is only incidental to the consumption of those beverages, including but not limited to, taverns, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and cabarets.

BUSINESS means a sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation, or other business entity formed for profit-making purposes, including retail establishments where goods or services are sold as well as professional corporations and other entities where legal, medical, dental, engineering, architectural, or other professional services are delivered.

CIGARETTE VENDING MACHINE means any self-service device which, upon insertion of coin(s), paper currency, token(s), card(s) or key(s) or any other item(s) dispenses one (1) or more cigarettes, as defined above, provided that the term shall neither be deemed to include any machine that is in storage, in transit or otherwise not set up for use and operation nor be deemed to include any machine that is situated on a train, bus or other public conveyance.

COMEDY CLUB means an establishment that is primarily used for live comedic entertainment.

EMPLOYEE means a person who is employed by an employer in consideration for direct or indirect monetary wages or profit, and a person who volunteers his or her services for a non-profit entity.

EMPLOYER means a person, business, partnership, association, corporation, including a municipal corporation, trust, or non-profit entity that employs the services of one (1) or more individual persons.

ENCLOSED AREA means all space between a floor and ceiling that is enclosed on all sides by solid walls or windows (exclusive of doorways), which extend from the floor to the ceiling.

HEALTH CARE FACILITY means an office or institution providing care or treatment of diseases, whether physical, mental, or emotional, or other medical, physiological, or psychological conditions, including but not limited to, hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals or other clinics, including weight control clinics, nursing homes, homes for the aging or chronically ill, laboratories, and offices of surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists, physicians, dentists, and all specialists within these professions. This definition shall include all waiting rooms, hallways, private rooms, semiprivate rooms, and wards within health care facilities.

PARK includes neighborhood/community/large urban/natural area and greenways/sports complex parks that are the basic unit of a park system and are recreational and social centers for those living in the nearby service area or from several neighborhoods and possibly may serve a broader community-based recreation need. Parks include areas that preserve unique landscapes and open spaces and include features that emphasize harmony with the natural environment. Parks include areas that accommodate group activities and recreational facilities, consolidated programmed athletic fields, and their associated facilities. Place of employment means an area under the control of a public or private employer that employees normally frequent during the course of employment, including, but not limited to, work areas, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms, employee cafeterias, hallways, and vehicles.

A private residence is not a “place of employment” unless it is used as a child care, adult day care, or health care facility.

PRIVATE CLUB means an organization, whether incorporated or not, which:(1) Is the owner, lessee, or occupant of a building or portion thereof used exclusively for club purposes at all times; (2) Is operated solely for a fraternal purpose but not for pecuniary gain; (3) Only sells alcoholic beverages incidental to its operation; (4) Conducts its affairs and management through a board of directors, executive committee, or similar body chosen by the members at an annual meeting; (5) Has established bylaws or a constitution to govern its activities; and (6) Has been granted an exemption from the payment of federal income tax as a club under 26 U.S.C. Section 501.

PUBLIC PLACE means an enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including but not limited to, banks, bars, bingo facilities, educational facilities, gaming facilities, health care facilities, hotels and motels, laundromats, public transportation facilities, reception areas, restaurants, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail service establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters, and waiting rooms. A private residence is not a “public place” unless it is used as a child care, adult day care, or health care facility.

RESTAURANT means an eating establishment, including but not limited to, coffee shops, cafeterias, sandwich stands, and private and public school cafeterias, which gives or offers for sale food to the public, guests, or employees, as well as kitchens and catering facilities in which food is prepared on the premises for serving elsewhere. The term “restaurant” shall include a bar area within the restaurant.

RETAIL TOBACCO STORE means a retail store utilized primarily for the sale of tobacco products, smoking implements, or smoking accessories for on-premises consumption and in which the sale of other products is merely incidental, which shall include but not be limited to cigar bars and humidors.

SHOPPING MALL means an enclosed public walkway or hall area that serves to connect retail or professional establishments.

SMOKING means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe, or any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, in any manner or in any form.

SPORTS ARENA means sports pavilions, stadiums, gymnasiums, health spas, boxing arenas, swimming pools, roller and ice rinks, bowling alleys, and other similar places where members of the general public assemble to engage in physical exercise, participate in athletic competition, or witness sports or other events.

CITY-OWNED FACILITIES. All enclosed facilities, including buildings and vehicles owned, leased, or operated by the city, shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.

LARGEST STUDY TO DATE FINDS SMOKE-FREE LAWS WOULD NOT HURT RESTAURANT AND BAR BUSINESS

A study conducted by RTI International in nine states concludes that statewide smoke-free laws would not be expected to have an adverse economic impact on restaurants and bars in these states. The study, which was supported by the CDC Foundation, was released on Tuesday, August 1, 2013, in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The findings of the new analysis are consistent with the results of previous peer-reviewed studies. However, this study (www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0327.htm) is unique in that it is the largest of its kind, aggregating all the available data from local jurisdictions in the studied states. The nine states were selected because they lack comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws, have enough local smoke-free laws to allow for an aggregate analysis, and are located in or adjacent to the Southeast.

“Our research found that smoke-free laws do not have a negative economic impact on aggregate restaurant or bar employment or revenues,” said lead author of the study Brett Loomis, a research economist at RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute. “Our findings suggest that a statewide smoke-free law in the states examined would not be expected to have an adverse economic impact on restaurants and bars in those states.”

Research has shown that smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, have a number of clear health benefits: they reduce nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, encourage smokers to quit, improve the health of restaurant and bar workers, and reduce heart attack hospitalizations in the general population. However, some restaurant and bar proprietors are concerned that the policies might negatively affect restaurant and bar business, and these concerns can pose a barrier to the broader introduction of smoke-free environments.

“Smoke-free laws save lives, and this study is further proof that they don’t hurt business,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Smoke-free laws make good business sense – they improve health, save lives, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs. Communities throughout the United States have made great strides in protecting workers and the public from secondhand smoke in the past decade, but too many Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke on the job and in public places.”

This research, suggested by CDC and made possible by a partnership grant from Pfizer Inc. to the CDC Foundation, examined objective economic indicators, including employment levels and taxable sales, in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. A separate component of the project resulted in videos featuring testimonials from restaurant and bar operators in the first eight of these states. The videos can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/smokefreebusiness.

“Pfizer is proud to have partnered with the CDC Foundation and CDC on this important research initiative and we are very encouraged by the results,” said Freda C. Lewis-Hall, MD, FAPA, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Pfizer. “They provide new proof that business owners can provide healthier environments to their staff and patrons without impacting their bottom line. We hope the results will advance efforts to reduce secondhand smoke in some of the areas of the country that need it most – and reduce the serious health risks it poses to nonsmokers.”

In eight of the nine states included in the analysis, smoke-free laws had no significant effect on restaurant or bar employment or revenues. These eight states included North Carolina, the only state in the analysis with an existing statewide smoke-free restaurant and bar law. In the ninth state, West Virginia, the analysis found that smoke-free laws were associated with a small increase in restaurant employment, and were not associated with a change in bar employment.

“We are pleased to help advance knowledge about the economic impact of smoke-free policies, which have the potential to positively impact the health of millions of Americans who work in or patronize restaurants and bars,” said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and several health problems in children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths in adult U.S. nonsmokers each year. Despite recent reductions in secondhand smoke exposure, 88 million Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke annually. Learn more at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco.

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Pierce Nelson with the CDC Foundation contributed to this article. For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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