Brenham Debates Possible Smoking Ban

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The dangers of smoking are undeniable. To what length city government should regulate it is up for debate in Brenham.

Wednesday evening, a proposed ordinance to ban smoking in public places was up for discussion at a public hearing.

For Brenham's health inspector, it's a fine line to walk in crafting a proposal.

"I have to represent the needs of all the citizens of Brenham, not just the smokers, not just the non-smokers," said Sherri Koepnick. "I have to look at finding a balance that strictly addresses public health concerns."

According to Koepnick, 20 percent of the city's 15,000 citizens are smokers. Under a proposed ordinance, one that is in its fifth revision, smoking in most public places would be prohibited with few exceptions. A 20-foot radius from doors, windows and ventilation of those places would also be enforced.

Koepnick had gotten limited public feedback before Wednesday's public hearing.

"I think that people are starting to come to grips with the idea that it's happening in towns all over Texas," she said. "The big cities are starting to have it."

And even in Austin Wednesday, State Representative Rodney Ellis proposed a statewide smoking ban in bars, restaurants and work sites.

Reaction in Brenham to their potential ban was passionate, but mixed, split between those who felt the government would prove too controlling with this ordinance, one some thought to be a violation of personal freedoms. Others said they had been turned off to certain places in town because of smokers there, and that they had the right to clean air.