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The following St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial appeared on August 15, 2011. It was strongly supportive of efforts by St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin’s efforts to promote smoke-free air. It makes reference to a study by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, published before the Illinois session wound up, which was influential in beating back efforts in that state to weaken the existing strong statewide smoke-free air law requiring casinos to be entirely smoke-free: there is no exception for the gaming floor, as has been done in Missouri and other states neighboring Illinois.
The editorial stated:
But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue.
Kathy Drea, Vice President of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois, confirmed this information was correct, and referred me to their web page at http://www.Smokefreeillinois.org/ where there’s a link to the study itself, titled ILLINOIS CASINO GAMBLERS PREFER SMOKE FREE CASINOS. The study was published May 11, 2011, on the Center for Policy Analysis University of Massachusetts Dartmouth website.
Of the 7 comments submitted by readers to the Post-Dispatch on its editorial below, 7 are from two traditional opponents of smoke-free air, Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, and are reproduced below for reference.
Editorial: Clearing the smoky air between the river banks
By the Editorial Board | Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 12:00 am | Comments (7 as of August 16, 2011, 11:47 am)
But in dealing with the public health issue of tobacco smoke, St. Charles County lags behind the state of Illinois, which adjoins it along the Mississippi; neighboring St. Louis County; the city of St. Louis; and such forward-thinking communities as Clayton, Kirkwood, Creve Coeur and, within St. Charles County itself, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon.
County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, has been working to change that. This spring, he championed a bill to allow county residents to vote on a reasonable tobacco control ordinance. It passed the council, 4-2, but County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed it.
In his veto letter, Mr. Ehlmann objected to the bill’s exemptions for “the gaming floor of a casino, cigar bars and 20 percent of the hotel rooms.” The exemptions were inconsistent with the goal of protecting public health, Mr. Ehlmann said, and gave exempted facilities an unfair competitive advantage.
Mr. Cronin has not given up. He has invited representatives of Mr. Ehlmann’s office, the American Cancer Society, St. Charles’ Ameristar Casino, Smoke-Free St. Charles County and other council members to meet with him this week about altering the exemption provisions. He hopes to introduce a revised bill at the council meeting next month.
”It’s a tough one,” Mr. Cronin told us. “I’m trying to walk a difficult line.” Public health is the bill’s principal objective, he said, but he also is sensitive to possible economic effects.
Mr. Cronin said that Ameristar predicts it would lose 20 percent of its business and have to cut 320 jobs if a smoking ban applied to the casino floor. Supposedly, gamblers who smoke would move across the river to Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis County, where they can smoke on the gaming floor.
Earlier this year, casino complaints about lost revenue got the attention of some Illinois legislators, and they introduced a bill to add casino exemptions to the state’s tough smoke-free law. Illinois casinos said they lost business to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri when the law took effect in January 2008.
But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue. Researchers at the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that Illinois gamblers, including smokers, had cut back casino visits because of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The reasons they cited included the increased cost of living, the loss of jobs and income, falling behind on their bills and the cost of gasoline.
Predictions of economic harm invariably appear wherever smoking control laws are proposed. Just as invariably, they fail to come true.
As Mr. Cronin proceeds with his good-faith efforts to forge a consensus, he should keep public health uppermost. That should satisfy Mr. Ehlmann’s concerns and give voters the opportunity to add smoke-free indoor air to the benefits of living and working in St. Charles County
Here are the posted comments from Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, starting with the former and with a few of my observations added:
Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 2:34 am
Joe Cronin is being such a phony drama queen about the smoking ban issue. Cronin ran against Cheryl Hibbeler as a smoking ban opponent. In a September 15, 2010 Post article he opined against a possible St. Charles County smoking ban: “It’s just another infringement on a lot of folks’ rights,”
. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/stcharles/article_aac7bde8-c0fe-11df-9f68-00127992bc8b.html#ixzz1VArIra24 Now Cronin is publicly agonizing over how to push for a smoking ban without costing jobs and one that Ehlmann won’t veto. But Cronin knows full well that a smoking ban with an “over 21″ exemption would pass the Council, would be treat all St. Charles County establishments equally, has a rational basis, and would cost very few jobs, if any. Such an exemption is in force in the smoking bans of Tennessee, Nevada and Georgia. Of course, the American Cancer Society wouldn’t like this exemption and for some reason Cronin is carrying water for them. Someone ought to call Cronin on this.
mogasp comment: Bill Hannegan keeps pushing this “over 21″ exemption idea despite this being a health and safety issue. There’s no logical reason for it. A nighttime exemption for outdoor burning of yard waste in St. Louis and other local cities would make just as much sense.
Tony Palazzolo said on: August 16, 2011, 7:32 am
To use the word “shredded” the evidence casinos in Illinois were affected goes is not a reasonable even for an editorial. The study that they point to used slight of hand and a big headline to get mislead the public. They “proved” that only attendance was not as affected by the ban. Yet they don’t talk about revenue which the basis of the claims. The study done by the Fed said that revenue not attendance was affected. The bottom line is that revenue and not attendance is what creates and sustains jobs, profits and taxes revenue. Either the editorial board didn’t read the report or they are trying to mislead the public.
Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 11:47 am
The Dartmouth research was just a survey paid for by the Illinois Lung Association, not a real economic study of Illinois casino revenues such as the one conducted by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank economists which blamed the Illinois smoking ban for a 20 percent decline in casino revenues.
mogasp comment: The Dartmouth study, which looks at attendance, is valid as far as I can tell. It’s subheading provides helpful background:
Decline in state’s gross gaming revenues attributable to other factors such as recession and declining competitiveness in region’s gaming market according to poll conducted by university gaming experts