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