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Dozens Pack W.F. Council Meeting to Comment on Proposed Tobacco Ordinance

The proposed tobacco ordinance was the big topic at Tuesday's Wichita Falls City Council meeting.
The proposed tobacco ordinance was the big topic at Tuesday's Wichita Falls City Council meeting.

No public comments were allowed during the presentation of the proposed tobacco ordinance Tuesday morning. However, that did not stop nearly two dozen people from sounding off  in the public comment period, before the presentation started.

The public smoking ban proposal had the city council chambers packed this morning, even though it was not up for a vote. Eleven people spoke against the ban, including restaurant and bar owners, who say the ban would hurt business.

"We haven't had time to make the money to build a patio and we'll lose everything that we've put into it," says Barbara Sutton, with Shady Lady Saloon.

"My staff is based on tips.  They're simply not gonna make enough money," adds Latoya Kittrell, general manager of Parkway Grill.

But one comment against the proposed ordinance came from a man who says he has not smoked in 25 years.

"This proposed ordinance would hinder consenting adults, using legal products in a licensed establishment and burden our law enforcement .. our ever thin law enforcement, by becoming the smoking police," says John F. Christoff, who spoke against the proposed ordinance.

Health officials say the goal of the ordinance is not to infringe on rights or hurt a business-- it's to promote better health. And eleven people who spoke in support of the proposed ordinance agreed.

"When you get lung cancer and you go through chemo and all the things you've heard about that costs millions of dollars.  Who pays for this? You and I pay for it.  We all pay for it.  Millions of dollars.  We're asking you to pass an ordinance that cost nothing.  Zero dollars," says Dr. Ahmed Mattar, with Family Health Center.

Rachel Brown is an eight year ovarian cancer survivor and asked the council to consider her personal fight.

"I refuse to be in an environment that infringes on my right not to have my lungs annihilated by other people's poor choices.  And, I've already had to battle for my life once against cancer. I'd like to not have to do that again," Brown says.

Public health director, Lou Kreidler, presented the final draft of the proposed ordinance to the council. She says some changes were made, including the wording for the ban on smoking in city parks to only prohibit smoking in park areas where families and children gather.

Councilors are expected to have the ordinance on the June 17th meeting for discussion and a possible vote. And if it passes it will take effect January 1st.
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