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Austin may ban smoking on bar, restaurant patios

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Smoking on restaurant and bar patios and decks could be banned in Austin. It's an idea being tossed around inside city hall. But not everyone supports a full out ban on smoking.

In 2005 the city banned smoking inside bars and restaurants, pushing smokers out on to decks and patios. This would be an extension of that ban and one some businesses don't agree with.

At Doc's Bar and Grill on South Congress, the smoking area is on the patio.

"We have it on the out-most part of the patio to keep away from people as much," said General Manager Garrett Edwards.

Edwards says that means only the area where the picnic tables are located. But if the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services had it their way smokers would not be allowed on the patios or decks at all.

"There is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke," said Dr. Phil Wung,Austin's health authority.

Dr. Wung says four of the five leading causes of death in Travis County are directly related to smoking or tobacco use.

"Smoking kills approximately 570 Travis County residents every year which is about 11 a week," Dr. Wung said.

It's why the city's health department has been actively engaged in this tobacco-free campaign. Dr. Wung presented some of these statistics to the city's early childhood council in December.

They supported the idea of a smoking ban on patios and decks and will be presenting it to city council members. Most of them told us had no comment on the issue yet.

But Edwards at Doc's is speaking out.

"I think that, I understand what they're trying to do and I totally get that. I think it's something that should be up to the establishment," said Edwards.

Edwards says when the city established the first smoking ban in 2005, some businesses were financially affected at first. He expects the same could happen again if an all-out ban is enforced.

According to Dr. Wung surveys show that less than 20 percent of people smoke in Travis County. So it could be a popular idea if it's put on the table.

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