Texas House passes smoking ban in bars and restaurants

AUSTIN (AP)   A bill meant to snuff out smoking in most bars and restaurants in Texas tentatively passed the state House today.

But the version that won preliminary approval was drastically weakened -- leaving its future in doubt.

Opponents successfully badgered the measure until they could force a key exemption for business property owners who want to allow smoking.

The bill still needs a final House vote before it goes to the Senate.

Representative Myra Crownover of Lake Dallas says ban is needed to protect workers and other people regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.

The biggest fight came over an attempt to exempt bars, which Crownover argued would have defeated the purpose of the bill.

Crownover later accepted an amendment that allows property owners not always the bar or restaurant operator to decide if smoking will be allowed.

The bill includes other smoking exemptions for bingo and V-F-W halls and bars that offer their employees health insurance.