The Sherman City Council on Monday voted to ban smoking in restaurants and bars after a lengthy debate over the merits of public health versus private property rights. Councilors split 5-2 in the final vote, making it officially illegal to smoke in city dining establishments, effective immediately.

The Sherman City Council on Monday voted to ban smoking in restaurants and bars after a lengthy debate over the merits of public health versus private property rights. Councilors split 5-2 in the final vote, making it officially illegal to smoke in city dining establishments, effective immediately.


"I think it’s a very forward-thinking move for the Council to make restaurants and bars smoke-free," Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker said. "Growing communities see that as an asset when they’re recruiting and attracting businesses and younger families. So we’re pleased to accomplish this after many months of research and discussion."


The issue first percolated with the Council more than a year ago, with councilor Tom Watt suggesting the idea during a March 2014 meeting with his colleagues. Watt joined with Wacker, councilors Terrence Steele, Jason Sofey and David Plyler in creating the majority needed to pass Monday’s resolution.


On the other side of the issue Monday, were councilors Lawrence Davis and Ryan Johnson, who cited the rights of business owners to decide entrepreneurial policy for themselves. Echoing previous comments from earlier this year, Davis said the small percentage of restaurants that allow smoking was a sign the market was regulating itself appropriately on the issue.


"There are 66 restaurants that don’t allow any kind of smoking anywhere, and there are nine that allow some smoking somewhere," Davis said. "It seems to me like the free market has really already solved this problem. … To have a place that smokers and their friends voluntarily decide that’s where they want to go and enjoy smoking after work or whenever — I don’t think we should interfere with that."


Councilor Jason Sofey said the fact that no businesses came to Monday’s meeting to protest the change in city policy was indicative of the writing on the proverbial wall, as more and more cities move toward smoking bans.


"I think if it was going to be a major negative economic impact, I think they would be here, armed raised, begging and pleading," Sofey said. "I don’t see that (response), and that’s a pretty good representation of kind of where we are. So I’m in favor of an ordinance in some capacity."


The ordinance as passed also includes e-cigarettes and other vapor products, despite protestations Monday from two individuals who said was "vaping" was a healthier alternative to smoking and should be considered as a separate issue.


"I quit smoking because of e-cigarettes, and it was the best thing I ever did," said concerned citizen Karen Derrick. "My objection to this ordinance is putting the e-cigarette, the vape, in a big pile with the cigarettes and other tobacco products. I believe they ought to be separated and dealt with separately, because there has been nothing proven as of yet that e-cigarette vape products have any harmful effects on people and even the people that are using them."


Wacker said the city preferred to err on the side of caution until more data on e-cigarettes was available.


Not included in the ban are outdoor patios, private residences, bingo halls, hotel rooms, fraternal lodges and other workplaces in which a business owner prefers to allow smoking.


"Trying to distill it down to one simple statement is kind of difficult," City Manager Robby Hefton said. "But think about the ordinance as being designed to protect against the effects of second hand smoke in enclosed areas, but certain enclosed areas are excluded."


While the city stopped short of a comprehensive ban by allowing some non-restaurant, non-bar, non-nursing-home employers to allow smoking if they so choose, the bar and restaurant ban was a huge step in the right direction, said the measure’s supporters.


"I see this as an opportunity to move Sherman forward," citizen Paul Bean said in his testimony to the Council. "Not because of what someone wants or what someone doesn’t want, but because it’s the right thing to do."