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McAllen City Commission adopts tougher anti-smoking regulations

The McAllen City Commission approved tougher smoking regulations Monday.

The McAllen City Commission approved tougher smoking regulations Monday.

McAllen already had relatively comprehensive regulations that banned smoking in most businesses and public places.

Some bars and restaurants, though, met stringent city requirements — including negative pressure smoking areas with separate ventilation systems — and still allowed smoking.

After a lobbying campaign by the Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition of Hidalgo County, the City Commission held a public hearing and drafted tougher regulations.

The new regulations approved Monday afternoon ban smoking in virtually all public places, including bars and restaurants with separate smoking areas. The City Commission approved exceptions for cigar bars and bingo halls with smoking areas where employees aren't present.

City Commissioner John Ingram opposed the new regulations, arguing that McAllen shouldn't stop adults from smoking in select establishments where they don't affect others.

"We're not stopping smokers from smoking," said City Commissioner J.J. Zamora. "It's a venue-location ordinance."

City Commissioner Richard Cortez said he saw merit in both arguments.

"In a perfect world there would be a perfect answer," Cortez said, adding that he supports reasonable exceptions: "I think a 100 percent 'no smoking' is not a realistic goal."

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