A group of 20 citizens wearing orange t-shirts with the words, “Mission Smoke Free Workplace,” applauded when the Mission City Council unanimously voted to approve an ordinance declaring the City of Mission a “Smoke Free Workplace” to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents.
The new ordinance, designed to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke, bans smoking in public places and places of employment throughout the city, including not only city and school buildings, but also businesses such as restaurants and retailers.
The new ordinance replaces a 1994 ordinance that left much of the regulation of smoking up to the individual businesses.
Mission City Manager Martin Garza Jr. said the new ordinance is a step further from the 1994 ordinance.
“It protects the employees who have to deal with the second-hand smoke, such as working at a bar…,” Garza explained. “So it jumps into that level of protection of the employee.”
The Mission, McAllen, Edinburg area was recently named as the top area in the nation for a healthy environment, Garza explained, and this ordinance helps the city to promote that same sentiment.
The ordinance follows a model ordinance drafted by the Tobacco Control and Prevention Coalition and is similar to an ordinance recently approved by the city of Edinburg.
The ban on smoking in public places includes libraries, museums and sports arenas, as well as areas used by the general public in businesses and non-profits, including banks, hotels, bars, movie theaters, lobbies, common areas in apartment buildings and trailer parks.
The prohibition of smoking in places of employment covers all enclosed areas, including common work areas, classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, elevators, hallways, medical facilities, cafeterias, employee lounges, restrooms and all other enclosed areas. Businesses will be required to post “No Smoking” signs at every entrance.
The new ordinance imposes new restrictions on smoking in outdoor areas within 20 feet of building entrances, as well as all outdoor stadiums and amphitheaters. In city-owned parks, smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of all pavilions and playgrounds.
Exceptions to the new rules include private residences, hotel and motel rooms designated as smoking rooms, outdoor seating areas of restaurants desig nated as smoking areas and retail tobacco stores.
Violators of the ordinance will be subject to fines up to $200 for the first offense and up to $500 and $2,000 for second and third offenses, respectively.
The ordinance cites several U.S. Surgeon General’s Reports that found second hand smoke exposure carries serious health risks, including increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The 2014 report found that second hand smoke exposure causes stroke in nonsmokers. The report also stated that since 1964 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from diseases caused by tobacco smoke.