Establishing Smoke Free Workplaces
Imagine working at a place that increased your risk of lung cancer by 50 percent. Doctors say that's the reality for folks working in most area bars and restaurants under Austin's existing smoking ordinance.
So they're adding their voices to a debate that could make Austin smoke free this year.
"It was good money. It was very easy, very flexible, and it was a lot of fun," former bartender Ryan Steglish said.
But years of bartending had its bad side too.
"I couldn't take the smoke," Steglish said, "We would drink Theraflu behind the counter to get rid of the cough. I would go out back to take five minute fresh air breaks the way people in offices got to take smoke breaks."
"Bar workers and hospitality workers are the most at risk due to second hand smoke in public places," pediatric pulmonolgist Dr. Bennie McWilliams said.
"There is a 50 percent increase in lung cancer risk among those workers due to tobacco exposure in the workplace," surgical oncologist Dr. Rob Fuller said.
So now a team of Austin doctors are teaming up for the sake of Steglish, other hospitality workers as well as children to support a city resolution to ban smoking in public places.
"If I was told I couldn't smoke I wouldn't go in," Patrick Heffley, Sixth Street bouncer and smoker, said, "As far as working in a bar, that would drive a lot of people out of the bars. They wouldn't even want to go in, and Sixth Street, that what it's based upon is partying."
"I think because you're not going to have so much smoke around people are going to spend more money on better food and higher quality drinks and liquor cause you can actually smell and taste it," Steglish said.
Even as he fights to help tomorrow's bartenders breath easier, he can't stop thinking about his own future and health.
"I wish I would've known," Steglish said, "You don't think about it so now I'm going to have to pay for my decision to sacrifice my health for a paycheck."
The mayor says the plan is still being refined, but he hopes to bring it to council in the next few months.
Steglish no longer bartends and volunteers for Smoke Free Austin.