Smokin’ Out In Austin

Austin, Texas, voters were to decide May 7th whether the “Live Music Capital of the World” would impose a ban on smoking in venues other than restaurants – including music venues and bars.

Though smoking bans are the norm in much of the country, including California and New York City, many Texans don’t cotton to the idea.

“It’s part of the culture,” said Paul Silver, owner of club/restaurant 219 West and a leader of Keep Austin Free, a group formed to oppose the ban. “A honky tonk has got smoking and dancing and drinking. You take one of those away and it’s not a honky tonk.”

Keep Austin Free filed suit in federal court to stop the referendum but lost. The group includes politicians and business owners. The South By Southwest Music Festival organization also opposes the ban.

But the referendum has its supporters, most notably the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Supporters, including musician Sara Hickman, say the public, as well as musicians, would be protected from secondhand smoke.

“There are some musicians who smoke, and I can see how [a ban] would be awkward for them,” Hickman said. “I would guess most musicians would agree with me that going home after a gig and smelling like smoke is disgusting. You might as well spray me with asbestos.”