Group Wants Smoke-Free Law, Cigarette Tax Increase

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

We've seen the warnings, we know the effects, and if the Midland Coalition of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program has their way, smoking in public places, like bars, could be a thing of the past.

A recent report by the Surgeon General warns there is immediate harm done to the body from smoking and even exposure to secondhand smoke.

And those harmful effects can trigger physical changes that could lead to cancer, heart attacks and other serious illnesses.

PDAP said this report makes it obvious why the Texas legislature should hike cigarette taxes once again and even pass a smoke-free law, but many smokers NewsWest 9 spoke with strongly disagree.

"We should be able to smoke wherever we want to, do whatever we want to. We're not breaking any laws," Michael Kinney, who's against the tax hike, said. "If you don't smoke, you don't want to be around people that do smoke, then don't come around us."

Crystal Carter thinks it's unfair to keep raising the taxes.

"We've already upped the taxes already before and now they're wanting to up them again? I mean I think that's ridiculous seeing as they've already been upped," she said.

Carter, and others like her, said it's their right to smoke wherever they please because they're the ones footing the bill.

"I feel if we want to pay seven dollars a pack of cigarettes, we can," Carter said. "We're already paying the tax dollars so we should be able to smoke them anywhere we want."

They agree if non-smokers don't want to be around secondhand smoke, then they can leave, and they argue passing a smoke-free law would do more than just regulate where they can smoke.

"That's taking away my rights as a U.S. citizen and that ain't right," Kinney said.

But one non-smoker says she has the right to breathe clean air.

"I believe everybody should have their rights but to actually smoke in public and around others, I think, is just inconsiderate," Lasonya Loblack, who's for the tax hike, said. "I think out in public, everybody should be comfortable."

She said although a smoke-free law would hurt some businesses, it's not worth risking the customers' health.

"I think in the beginning it would be really bad, it would be a struggle but I think eventually overall, it would be needed it's much needed," Loblack said. "You know smoking is really dangerous, it's causing cancer, it's doing so much."

PDAP said a smoke free law and increasing taxes is the most effective way to keep our state healthy and Loblack believes it's a step in the right direction.

"Believe it or not, there's a lot of smokers who really want to quit smoking and think that would be there stepping stone to actually doing it," she said. "I think the higher the cigarettes are, it will stop all the younger kids as well from starting or picking up that habit."

But Carter isn't convinced, and she said that won't stop her, or others, from lighting up.

"I think we pay enough tax dollars to smoke what we want," Carter said. "It's not going to stop and even the patches don't work, none of that crap works. If people are going to smoke, they're going to smoke."