Four of five South Houston city council members voted Tuesday night to repeal a city ordinance pertaining to smoking in buildings owned by, or under the control of, the city of South Houston.
Smokers are not, however, lighting up just anywhere and have been directed to one designated building owned by the city to smoke should they desire to do so.
Eloise Smith, South Houston mayor, explained that the ordinance was repealed in an attempt to provide smokers an area that would protect them from being required to stand outside in the elements.
"People who smoke have rights, too," Smith said. "The old ordinance specified no smoking in any city building. We have a more in-depth ordinance now that will allow smoking in the old fire station behind City Hall."
The building housing the police department also has a covered area that allows for investigators to step outside with the person being questioned to smoke, she said. The officers had assured her that the covered area was sufficient for the needs of smokers.
"As the mayor and council of the city, I must represent the rights of all people," she said.
The ordinance, Smith said, still prevents smoking in any building except for the old fire station building. Several people employed at City Hall building routinely step outside to smoke, she said, and she had often seen them standing under umbrellas when it was raining.
If the ladies who step outside to smoke still desire to stand under umbrellas to smoke, that is their choice, Smith said. However, providing a building for anyone to use for smoking purposes would prevent employees and other visitors to city properties from breaking the law.
"If a nonsmoker comes inside the old fire station and states that the cigarette smoke bothers that person, then they all must put out their cigarettes," Smith said.
Smith said employees taking time to step out of the building to smoke did so during designated break periods provided by law, and productivity of employees was not an issue.
The city of South Houston is a small community, she said, and doesn't want to see anyone being cited for a misdemeanor offense. The employees and visitors to the city-owned properties are a close-knit group of people whose individual rights are all important to city leaders, she said."
While an admirable attempt at fairness so that they can't be called in foul, they completely ruined it by saying that if a nonsmoker enters the old firestation (now a designated SMOKING area) and complains, then the smokers still have to put out their cigarettes.
Umm..close, but no cigar..or cigarette...