A statewide ban on smoking in public places in Texas, including bars and restaurants, is moving closer to a Senate vote.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the ban on a 5-3 vote Monday, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. The panel made a few key changes, exempting cigar bars and outdoor patios at restaurants and bars. It also excludes nursing homes.
Supporters, including the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society, say a ban is needed to protect public health from secondhand smoke. Opponents call it an infringement on civil liberties and property rights.
According to the Smoke-Free Texas coalition, secondhand smoke kills 53,000 nonsmoking Americans every year and is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth weight and chronic lung ailments.
Two dozen states have already enacted some smoke-free laws and about 14 others are considering them, the coalition says. Dozens of Texas cities already have local ordinances limiting smoking in public, but several efforts at a statewide crackdown have failed in recent years.