by Victor Lopez
TEXAS--The bill's prime target is bars, restaurants and other public places. It isn't even a law yet but it's already getting support and criticism from some unlikely places.
Like many restaurants across the Basin, Gerrardo's Casita in Midland allows smoking, but only in the evenings.
According to owner Jerry Morales, "Based on what the city ordinance reads, we can have smoking. Nobody has confronted me, but they have made their comments that, 'Jerry, we wish you were all non-smoking.' On the other hand, I've had smokers say, 'That's wrong. We pay like the non-smokers do. We pay taxes.'
Whether you're a smoker, non-smoker or indifferent, if it's passed, SB 355 could tell you when and where you can pick up and take a drag from your favorite cigarette.
Morales is also on the board for the Texas Restaurant Association. He supports SB 355 to a certain extent.
"What I don't like is the government telling me how to run my business. That's where I've had some issues in the past and that's why I've fought it in the past. It's not that I support smokers or non-smokers, I just don't want the government telling me how I want to operate," Morales explained.
Pojo's and Neon Moon in Odessa allow smoking in the restaurant and bar all the time. But owner John Herriage has his own opinion too.
"I think it may affect us for a little while, a couple of weeks. But I think we'll build our clientele back up. We've had a number of customers say they don't want to come because of the smoking. They love our food and our establishment. They just don't want to be around the smoke," Herriage said.
Ultimately, you could see completely smoke-free businesses and even limits to how close a cigarette can get to their front door. Some states, like California, have gone as far as keeping them off their outdoor patios.
"To me," Morales says, "that's getting very extreme. But, if it did pass, we just want to see some consistency across the state where the rural communities aren't trying to do something different than the others."
Herriage is a smoker himself but he sees some positive results coming out of this proposed bill, "They're not paying for smoke eaters, not paying for ashtrays. You're not having burn holes in your carpet. And the establishment smells better."
The biggest question is, could restrictions on smoking affect business?
"If we're all doing it, no, it couldn't hurt it. But if some have different amendments to the state law, then yes, it could," Morales added.
SB 355 is still in committee and has a ways to go before it's passed, so for now, only time will tell.