Texas House Passes Amendment to Senate Bill 1811 to Eliminate Smoking in Bars and Restaurants

Move means savings of millions of taxpayer dollars by eliminating the Medicaid costs that result from exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor areas of bars and restaurants

May 20, 2011

AUSTIN – The Texas House of Representatives by a vote of 73-66 passed an amendment tonight to SB 1811 - the Fiscal Matters bill - that was projected to save $31 million in taxpayer dollars for the 2012-2013 biennium as introduced by eliminating the Medicaid costs that result from exposure to secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants. 

The amendment – added on the second reading of SB 1811 – proposes a statewide law that would provide protection for Texas employees and customers from the dangers of secondhand smoke by eliminating smoking in indoor areas of bars and restaurants across the state.   There were three amendments to the amendment that weakened it by allowing smoking to continue inside charitable bingo, VFWs and pool halls. These changes  may have lessened the cost savings to the state.  Representative Myra Crownover, a long-time leader in the effort for a comprehensive statewide smoke-free workplace law, proposed the amendment. 

“We applaud our state representatives for passing Rep. Crownover’s amendment to the Fiscal Matters bill that will protect the health of Texas employees in bars and restaurants while providing much-needed budget savings for our state in these challenging economic times,” said Claudia Rodas, co-chair of the Smoke-Free Texas Coalition.  “Now is time for our Senators to finish the job by passing SB 1811 with the Crownover amendment.”

Amid massive budget shortfalls facing our state, the amendment provides numerous health and economic benefits for Texans such as millions in savings for businesses and taxpayers on costs relating to secondhand smoke exposure including reduced health care costs, insurance, maintenance, employee productivity and other direct or indirect costs of secondhand smoke.  In addition, numerous studies of objective data – including analyses of sales tax receipts in several Texas smoke-free cities – show that going smoke-free has no impact or a positive impact on the hospitality industry. 

A smoke-free indoor workplace law enjoys strong support from numerous organizations, local elected officials, community leaders and every day Texans.  A January 2011 poll conducted by Baselice & Associates found 70 percent of Texas voters surveyed favor a proposed statewide law that would eliminate smoking in indoor workplaces, including 67 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents, 74 percent of Democrats and more than half of voters with Tea Party views. 

“Texans across the state clearly support smoke-free workplace legislation,” said Rodas.  “Smoke-Free Texas remains committed to passing a comprehensive statewide law that will save thousands of lives and millions of taxpayer dollars by eliminating secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces throughout Texas.  Texas is now one step closer to having smoke-free indoor workplaces in all areas of the state.”

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NOTE: Places covered under the Crownover amendment include bars and restaurants that are required to have a license from the Department of State Health Services or the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, except tobacco bars whose tobacco sales equal 15 percent or more of the total revenue.

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