Fight Shaping up at Capitol Over Proposed Smoking Ban

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A fight is shaping up at the Texas Capitol over a proposed ban on smoking in all bars, restaurants and work sites across the state.

The legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, pits anti-smoking forces against the tobacco industry and possibly restaurant owners. All are represented by a battalion of lobbyists, some prominent and highly paid.

One lobbyist for tobacco giant Philip Morris USA -- which opposes an all-out ban on smoking in private businesses -- is Luis Saenz, former campaign director for Republican Governor Rick Perry.

With all sides pouring money into the debate, and Texas viewed by some as a "tipping point" state that could influence other smaller states, the behind-the-scenes legislative maneuvering may be particularly aggressive.

Sixteen states, including California and New York, have comprehensive smoking bans; 13 others are considering them. Houston, Austin, El Paso and other Texas cities already have comprehensive smoking bans.

Ellis' proposal is aimed at eliminating second-hand smoke in indoor public places. It would ban smoking in government offices, private work sites, restaurants, bars and the seating area of outdoor entertainment events.

It also would prohibit smoking within 15 feet of entrances to those places.