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Palmview cracking down on underage drinking and public smoking

The city of Palmview approved two separate ordinances during its Tuesday city council meeting that will combat public smoking and underage drinking.


During the meeting, the city of Palmview became the first city in the Rio Grande Valley to pass an ordinance that would punish persons who provide a location where underage drinking occurs, said Melissa Alviar, coalition coordinator for the Uniting Neighbors in Drug Abuse Defense program.


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Alviar presented the ordinance to the board. As part of the ordinance, the owner, renter or leaseholder of a property would receive a Class C misdemeanor ticket of up to $500 for allowing underage drinking on their property.


Lauren Sepulveda, a UNIDAD member present at that city council meeting, said other cities in the state such as El Paso and San Antonio have passed similar ordinances.
The council unanimously approved the ordinance.


According to a 2016 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, young adults aged 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the country. That same report stated alcohol consumption is a factor in the deaths of nearly 4,400 young adults every year.


Palmview Police Lieutenant Carlos Zamarron said the city will benefit from the ordinance.


“Now we have a tool we can use when we respond to house parties. Anywhere there is underage drinking and the person in charge knows about it they will be held accountable,” he said, adding that Palmview had 33 cases of underage drinking in 2016.


Alviar said the ordinance would reduce the number of underage drinking cases in the city.


“We know teen drinking is going on, this is just another way to combat it to make sure if your kid isn’t allowed to drink, your kid can’t go to someone else’s house where underage drinking is allowed,” Alviar told the board. “It holds the other owners and parents responsible.”


Sepulveda, who also works at the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office, said she is familiar with the effects of underage drinking and hopes the ordinance is successful.


“UNIDAD wants to spread this ordinance around the Valley,” she said. “As someone who works in the courthouse, I’ve seen the effects of teen drinking and how it leads to fights, cases of sexual assault and drunk driving. I’m glad Palmview is at the forefront of recognizing this is an issue and giving law enforcement a way to deal with them.”


Afterward, the city also adopted an ordinance to prohibit indoor smoking in a public  business. Similar to the one passed in the city of Mission June 2016, the ordinance would require smokers to remain 25 feet from public buildings.


Failure to comply with the ordinance would result in a $200 fine for a first offense followed by $500 and $2,000 fines for a second and third offense, respectively.


Gilda Bowen, a coordinator with the Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition, told the city council Palmview would be the 14th city in the last three years to adopt such an ordinance. The ordinance would permit hospitality workers to avoid the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, she said.


According to a Dec. 20, 2016 fact sheet published by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.


After the meeting, Palmview Mayor Gerardo Perez said both ordinances would go into effect in 30 days following Tuesday’s meeting.


The ordinance was unanimously passed after Palmview City Manager Ramon Segovia informed the council only three local businesses, all bars or restaurants that still allow smoking, would be affected by it. Most businesses and public buildings already prohibit smoking, said Assistant City Manager David Nacianceno.


“I know it worked well for the city of Mission, so this ordinance would be something good for residents and could drive up local business,” Segovia said.

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