By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Starting June 1, restaurants in Killeen will be 100 percent smoke free, as will most work environments – but that's about it.
The Killeen City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve a new ordinance banning smoking from such public venues, but exempting some of the area's smoking spots.
The ordinance includes a ban on all public buildings, providing exceptions for stand-alone bars, pool halls, clubs, bingo halls and even bowling alleys, the last of which was added to the ordinance by the City Council during its workshop session Tuesday afternoon.
While the ordinance certainly pleases the business owners of those exempted locations, Councilman Larry Cole said it's too weak, and wasn't enforced to start with.
"The committee was given a very difficult, if not impossible, task," he said. "But we have an ordinance that is unenforceable. By the time we get down to it, all it restricts is restaurants. How many citations have been issued since 1991? None. I think we should just enforce the current ordinance.
"Economics will, in the end, prevail. The people have a choice right now."
Councilman Otis Evans said that in trying to give everyone due consideration, the council has in effect approved a ban without much teeth. And while it's not perfect, it can still be amended, and may be void if the state Legislature passes a law with stronger restrictions.
"This has not been a pleasant process at all," Evans said, noting an old saying he learned as a boy. "But if you have equitably distributed dissatisfaction, then you've done the right thing."
The ban most directly affects restaurants, which will be totally smoke free, as long as they are enclosed. Open-air patios will not be restricted.
The ban also restricts smoking within 10 feet of any entrance to a public building. This does not exclude employee entrances, though the topic was discussed at length.
Wells said that one of the purposes of the ordinance was to prevent smoke from entering a building, even the back door.
Councilman Juan Rivera said in the meeting that he was in favor of the ordinance as it was Tuesday, echoing a stance by fellow smoking committee member Kenny Wells. But unlike Wells, Rivera was against the ordinance in its final form because of the additions.
"I don't think it's a level playing field in this ordinance per se," Rivera said. "I believe it may be a little unconstitutional."
The new ordinance will take effect June 1, which is after the state is expected to decide on the matter.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568.