By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The hottest topic in town is still the smoking ban – but that might change soon.
The dynamics of the smoking ban controversy have polarized the Killeen community as people debate the topic at barstools and cubicles much the same way as members of the city's smoking ban committee. How would a ban affect businesses close to Harker Heights? Will bingo halls remain the only exemptions? What about other places with a high smoker turnout, such as bars, bowling alleys and pool halls? If just restaurants are banned, then what about 24-hour diners? Can the city even enforce such a rule?
It's a big headache for the council and the smoking committee, particularly those four councilmen who are up for re-election in May.
But they may have a way out.
House Bill 5 is a no smoking ban currently gaining momentum in the Texas Legislature. In 2007, a similar version passed the House before dying out in the Senate.
But this one is different, said House District 55 Rep. Ralph Sheffield, who is co-authoring the bill in his first session.
The serious proposal by the state makes Wednesday's committee meeting a crossroads for the issue locally. It could give councilmen the green light to pull the topic and just wait and see what the legislature does, something that has already been considered and suggested by several people at committee meetings.
Councilman Juan Rivera doesn't want to wait, however. At the last meeting on Jan. 20, Rivera said the committee should do what it was supposed to do – make a recommendation to the city council – not avoid the issue simply because it is controversial.
Currently he stands as the only committee member to voice opposition to waiting.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.
Killeen's proposed smoking ordinance
As written, the revised no smoking ordinance would make it unlawful to smoke in the following areas:
Most enclosed public places, such as restaurants, lobbies, bars, pool halls, dance clubs and bowling alleys. The only exceptions to these rules are outdoor patios either screened or not fully enclosed.
Within 25 feet of an entrance, window or vent of an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.
Outdoor public venues, such as seating areas and bleachers at parades, sporting events, and in playgrounds and inside fenced areas of public pools as well as the outdoor patio area at Stonetree Golf Clubhouse.
Exceptions include the following:
Private residences, except those which host a day care.
Designated smoking rooms in hotels.
Retail tobacco stores.