• Those At Smoking Ban Forum Seem Split On Proposed November Ballot Measure
  • Opinion on whether San Marcos should snuff smoking cigarettes in public areas seemed evenly split Monday among those for and against the ban during an open house designed to gauge public support.

    The City Council voted to put a nonbinding referendum on the November ballot that would give the council the freedom to abandon the idea even if voters approve it. The only council member to oppose the issue, Fred Terry, said adopting a ban would strip business owners of their private property rights.

    Any ordinance instructing business owners how to run their establishments is "bad public policy, bad economic policy and sets a bad precedent we should avoid," Terry said in a July 8 email.

    The event was held in a room at the San Marcos Activity Center; city officials said they didn't count attendees. The open house solicited a range of information from attendees, such as who they were and whether they thought the city was the appropriate entity to ban smoking cigarettes. Boards throughout the room asked attendees to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with a question about smoking cigarettes in San Marcos by putting a sticker next to "yes," "no" or "no opinion."

    The informal poll seemed about evenly split halfway through the event.

    Robert Pearson Jr., who owns Outlet Self Storage in San Marcos, said secondhand smoke cigarettes is a problem. Pearson said he and his girlfriend, Cynthia Danton, hurry past people smoking cigarettes outside restaurants because the smoke cigarettes disturbs them.

    "It sticks to your hair like a magnet," he said.

    The well-attended open house drew people from as far as Kyle. Christian Golden traveled from there to register his opinion against the ban. Charlie Burton, who recently earned his master's in geography from Texas State University, opposes the ban.

    "I don't like big government telling me what to do," Burton said.

    Mike Orloff, who opposes a ban, signed a poster board at the entrance of the open house, identifying himself as a smoker and a homeowner. "We don't need increased tyranny of the majority."

    Brian Bowser, an Austin-based coordinator for the American Heart Association, said 36 Texas cities bar smoking cigarettes in the workplace. Bowser said there's momentum for San Marcos to similarly prohibit smoking cigarettes.

    Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, which had a booth at the open house, has been smoke-free since 2008, and it will only hire nonsmoking cigarettes employees starting in September, said spokesman Clay DeStefano.

    The hospital supports the ban from a health perspective but also recognizes that smoking cigarettes is a choice, DeStefano said. "A lot of people see this more as a freedom issue rather than a health issue, and that's a tougher debate."

    San Marcos City Manager Jim Nuse said that referendum language will be drafted in time for the council's Aug. 2 meeting. The language will be general though, he said, such as, "Should the city consider measures to regulate smoking cigarettes?" The council could then craft language for a law after the election.

    A second open house is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Texas Music Theater, 120 E. San Antonio St. After considering feedback from the public forums, the council will probably call the November election at its Aug. 2 meeting.