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      Harlingen non-smoking ordinance to go into effect in July

      The city of Harlingen is implementing a non-smoking ordinance that goes into effect July 1st.

      This ordinance prohibits smoking in bars, private clubs and the Valley Race Park.

      Harlingen is strengthening an ordinance that already prohibited smoking in public places and places of employment but it exempted bars, nightclubs and dog racing tracks.

      According to Ordinance No. 14-20,

      "The purpose of this chapter is to improve and protect the public TMs health by eliminating smoking in public places and places of employment, guarantee the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air, and recognize that the need to breathe smoke-free air shall have priority over the choice to smoke."

      "We haven't outlawed smoking in Harlingen we just said you can't smoke in these areas where you might be invading other people TMs personal space with your smoke," Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said.

      Mayor Chris Boswell says he was approached by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society in April.

      After numerous public forums where the public showed support for the ordinance, the city council voted to make it official starting July 1st.

      "This is an effort to eliminate the effects of second hand smoke particular on the employee population who may have to work in that environment and maybe they don't want to smoke," Boswell said.

      The use of e-cigarettes will also be prohibited in those locations.

      The ordinance also prohibits the sale and possession of e-cigarettes by anyone under the age of 18 in Harlingen.

      Places that will not be affected by this ordinance are:

      • specially designated rooms in hotels and motels

      • retail tobacco stores and retail e-cigarette stores

      • outdoor seating in bars, restaurants, private clubs and VRP

      • golf courses between the tee of the first hole and the green of the final hole

      Business owners should expect to receive official notifications of the changes soon.

      According to the city, Harlingen was the first city in the Rio Grande Valley to adopt a smoking ordinance in 2005.

      Brownsville and McAllen followed by adopting smoking ordinances.

      Violations and penalties for breaking the rules remain the same as the ordinance established in 2005:

      • Any person who violates any provision of the chapter will face a fine of not more than $100.

      • A fine not exceeding $200 will be assessed for a second violation within one year of the first violation.

      • A fine not exceeding $500 will be assessed for an additional violation within one year after the first violation.