Texas needs to impose stronger anti-smoking laws

James Treuthardt

Texas is one of 14 states that does not have 100 percent smoke-free air laws. While some places, like Austin, have developed their own laws about smoking in public places, there are no state laws that prevent people from smoking publicly. To reduce illness from secondhand smoke and clean up the air around the state, Texas needs to enact a 100 percent smoke-free air law.

UT has implemented its own anti-smoking policy on campus. According to Nosse Ovienmhada, UT’s Tobacco Free Campus coordinator, our anti-smoking policy relies on a direct approach intervention strategy to prevent on-campus smoking. This means members of the UT campus are allowed to request that people stop smoking on campus when they see them. If people in violation of the policy do not comply, they can be referred to various University offices for disciplinary action.

On campus, the policy has worked fairly well. While it certainly can’t prevent smoking on campus 100 percent of the time, the University has infrastructure in place to prevent it to the best of their ability. However, off-campus smoking abounds. 

Even if someone is told not to smoke on campus, they can simply walk across the street and smoke in West Campus.  The policy is unable to truly be effective at reducing the dangers of smoking because statewide policy does not restrict it.

Austin city ordinance does prevent smoking in some public areas, but there are certain actions the state can take to prevent smoking that a city cannot. Practical measures like taxes on cigarettes can help increase the barriers to smoking. Texas even has measures to help people stop smoking, but will not enact a ban on smoking in public places. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe. Twenty-five million people who were nonsmokers have died from secondhand smoke since 1964. The danger is real.

California enacted a statewide ban on smoking 20 years ago. Now, it has the second smallest percentage of smokers in the United States at only 11 percent. Those changes have allowed California to reduce its rate of lung cancer four times as fast as the rest of the nation. There are strict fines for smoking in public in California, and the state continues to pass anti-smoking legislation, including a recent excise tax increase
on cigarettes.

The Texas Legislature has tried and failed to pass anti-smoking laws in the past. More than 100 Texas cities have passed some form of anti-smoking laws which encompasses nearly half of Texas’ population, but the legislature still fails to join them in that ban. Texas state government should follow the example of California, other states and its own cities and ban smoking in public places at a statewide level.

Treuthardt is a journalism and marketing sophomore from Allen. Follow him on Twitter @jamestreuthardt.