By Gavin Belle

After weeks of listening to community stakeholders Wichita Falls City Council passed a new smoking ordinance, but only by the narrowest of margins.

The vote was taken at Tuesday’s (6/17) meeting after members of the public were allowed time to make final arguments for or against the ordinance.

The allotted 15 minutes given to each side by Mayor Glen Barham saw a number of concerned citizens taking to the podium to air their views.

A member of the local Bar Owners Association, Daniel Ahern, while commenting on the smoking ordinance says he disagrees with the ban and feels that a member of the his association should have been included in early stages of the planning process.

Ahern says, “It’s like we got sucker punched. Most of these people have enough respect for me to have me do other stuff in the community and lead in different entities but should this ever happen again there should be a committee, there should be more research done and there should be people from all stakeholders put in there, not one side. “

Ahern added despite his feeling on the matter he and his fellow Bar Owners did sit down with the Wichita Falls Health Coalition and came up with a compromise adding an amendment of a two-year grace period before the legislation would take effect for bars. During that time patrons of Bars in the city would be able to smoke anywhere inside the bar.

Meanwhile the ordinance was amended to have Bingo halls and Bars, which open before October 1st 2014, included in the two-year grandfather clause of the ordinance. Other entities included in that clause are, bowling allies, fraternal organizations and country clubs.

Starting July 17, 2014 smoking will be prohibited in public places, city buildings or enclosed facilities, as well as within 20 feet of an entrance or openable window of an enclosed area.

Smokers at 18 and up only bars will have to stay 5 feet away from the door when smoking - even during the 2-year grace period. Although they will be able to smoke anywhere inside the bar during the grace period.

The smoking ban ordinance also includes a ban on smoking e-cigarettes in public following the same rules stated above.

Speaking to some members of the community most don’t think the ban will affect their lifestyle that much.

“It really doesn’t affect me. I don’t feel like but I’m not around it.” – Terrence Smith Midwestern Student

“I don’t smoke never have, so it wouldn’t affect me but people that do smoke will probably be upset with it.“ - Gadrian Muse, Midwestern Student

“I'm glad it passed, because second hand smoke can kill a lot of people. So I think it’s wonderful.” - Shontesa Jones

How do you feel about the passing of this new ordinance. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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