Group Hopes to Make College Station Smoke-Free

By: Ashlea Sigman Email
By: Ashlea Sigman Email

You can light up a cigarette at almost any bar in College Station, but one group wants to change that. "Smoke-Free College Station" is urging the city council to make its smoking ordinance more strict.

Current law dictates businesses in College Station that make at least 51% of their sales from alcohol are defined as bars, and people can smoke there anytime.

To allow patrons to smoke, restaurants must have seating for more than 50 people and separate non-smoking by four feet.

That smoking section can't be greater than half of the restaurant's total seating. If restaurants comply with all of that, restaurant goers can light up, but only between the hours of 10p.m. and 6a.m..

If Smoke-Free College Station has its say, College Station will be just that, smoke free.

In Northgate, folks come to the Dixie Chicken to chow down, throw back and light up.

"Thats part of our business, people do come to smoke and socialize," said manager Kenneth Blake.

Smoke-Free College Station would like to send smokers outside. The city wants to put a stop to smoking in all bars by eliminating smoking in all indoor public workplaces.

"Every resident, employee and university student in College Station has the right to breathe smoke-free air," said Texas A&M Communications Professor Michael Stephenson, at the group's Thursday press conference. "All of them are being endangered by exposure to second hand smoke."

However, some smokers on Northgate say not so fast.

"I understand where they're coming from though, because the second-hand smoke is bad, but it is an infringement on my rights I believe," said smoker Cameron Mitchell.

"Its not an infringement on anyone's right to tell them that they can't cause harm to others. That's a constitutional right to live with the freedom to not be harmed," said Oncologist Erin Fleener, of Smoke-Free College Station.

"Workers should not be forced to choose between a paycheck and their health," said Stephenson.

"Oh I think that's ridiculous because its your choice to work in a bar in the first place. There's plenty of other jobs available," said bar employee and smoker Cortney Ashmore.

"I agree with it, if you choose not to smoke, then you shouldn't be exposed to it, especially in a place of employment," said Texas A&M grad student Alaina Spaniol.

18 people work at the Dixie Chicken. "if they didn't want to work here they don't have to," said Blake.

For now, those employees will continue to work in a smoker-friendly environment.

The American Cancer Society is behind Smoke-Free College Station. The group spoke with the city council Wednesday.

The council directed city staffers to get more feedback before making a recommendation for what if any changes should be made to the ordinance.

City employees say any changes to the ordinance would not affect smoke and cigar shops.

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