Monthly Archives: May 2009

Butt Heads: Want to know where our public officials stand on smoking bans? OK, we’ll ask ’em!

The following is excerpted from The Riverfront Times, with permission. The article can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

Butt Heads: Smoking Bans Yea or Nay?

Butt Heads: Smoking Bans Yea or Nay?

By Kristen Hinman
Published on May 26, 2009 at 2:50pm

Two weeks ago state legislatures in North Carolina — the nation’s top tobacco-producing state — and Wisconsin passed statewide smoking bans, bringing to 33 the number of U.S. states with some sort of prohibition on indoor smoking. The Show-Me State is not among that group. …

In St. Louis, Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, who represents the 28th Ward, has introduced the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009, a bill to outlaw smoking in virtually all public places. …

But Krewson’s bill has a catch: It would only be enacted on the day that St. Louis County adopts identical legislation.

The St. Louis County Council has already visited the subject. Twice. In 2005 then-council members Kurt Odenwald and Skip Mange called for a wide-ranging ban that would have included parts of casinos; the council voted it down, 4-3. In 2006 Odenwald tweaked his proposal and suggested that it be put to the people. The council instead voted to table the issue and refer it to the state legislature.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a known health nut, has stated that passing a smoking ban in the city is a major priority for his third term in office. …

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says through a spokesman that he would support a statewide ban only. …

And earlier this year the St. Charles County Municipal League, which represents seventeen cities, passed a resolution urging that indoor smoking bans be addressed only at the state level, for economic reasons.

It all adds up to more bureaucratic waffling than you can shake a cancer stick at. So here at Riverfront Times we decided it’s high time to clear the air.

So we polled public officials (including state legislators) in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, as well as in municipalities with populations of 15,000 or more. We asked ’em a few straightforward questions, beginning with: Would you support a smoking ban in [your jurisdiction]? …

And now to the results — with bonus commentary when we found it entertaining and/or enlightening. …

[MP: To view the complete article and the results, please click here which takes you to the original RFT article on-line.]

The Smoke-on-me State

The following editorial appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch one day before news of the near-unanimous approval of the first reading of Clayton’s proposed comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance.

By the way, many years ago I coined the name “Smoke-Me State” to describe Missouri, a play on the “Show-Me State” moniker.

North Carolina goes smoke-free. Why can’t we?
By St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time was when having a drink in a North Carolina bar meant having a cigarette, too — or at least inhaling a few coffin nails’ worth of tobacco smoke.

Times have changed.

The nation’s largest tobacco-producing state just became the latest state with a clean indoor air law. Beginning Jan. 1, it will be illegal to smoke inside North Carolina bars and restaurants. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue signed the law in Raleigh, next door to Durham, the historic headquarters of Big Tobacco.

At the same time, city officials in Clayton were debating a proposal that would prohibit smoking in public places there. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has said that he wants to enact a similar law.

St. Louis-area officials have been saying that for at least 15 years, yet smoking still is allowed in most restaurants and bars on this side of the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile, Missouri is in no immediate danger of joining North Carolina, Illinois or any of the other 25 states with clean indoor air laws. A proposed smoking ban introduced by state Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, never got out of committee before the Legislature adjourned on May 15.

Word was that suburban St. Louis city councils were meeting to discuss anti-smoking ordinances. Warning letters were dispatched quickly, reading in part:

“Our Public Issues Department is encouraging Smokers’ Rights Groups to protest. An important element in defeating these measures would be the participation of customers and smokers.”

That letter, from an anonymous employee of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, was dated July 24, 1990. It’s just one among millions of tobacco industry documents made public after lawsuits filed by state attorneys general were settled in 1998.

But while the geography has changed — the 1990 letter was written in response to proposed bans in Chesterfield and Brentwood — the playbook remains the same.

On May 12, Clayton’s Board of Aldermen heard bar and restaurant owners and their workers warn that a smoking ban would result in businesses closing. That’s the same message Big Tobacco was peddling back in 1990, along with now-discredited junk science questioning the health effects of secondhand smoke.

It’s the same line officials in North Carolina and Illinois and New York and South Dakota and every other state that already has approved clean indoor air laws have heard, too.
It wasn’t persuasive in those states, and it shouldn’t be persuasive here either.

The logic of restricting smoking in public places is undeniable. The overwhelming majority of people don’t smoke. They have the right to breathe clean air, not someone else’s dangerous and dirty tobacco smoke.

Smokers argue that markets, not the government, should dictate how business is conducted. It’s a specious argument. We don’t allow companies to spew poison into the air or water simply because they can make money doing it and their customers don’t object.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that secondhand smoke kills about 38,000 people every year and sickens hundreds of thousands of others.

Restaurants and bars are among businesses that are least likely to provide health insurance to their employees, so when their workers get sick from the effects of secondhand smoke, the rest of us get stuck with the tab for their care.

Workplace smoking may be good for tobacco companies’ bottom lines, but it is hazardous to the rest of us. Non-smokers on Tobacco Road in North Carolina soon will have more rights than non-smokers in Missouri. This is crazy.

Clayton smoking ban gets initial OK

Post-Dispatch reporter Margaret Gillerman continues to frame this as a “smoking ban” rather than emphasizing the positive impact of this legislation by ensuring “smokefree air.” That allows opponents to rail against overzealous government limiting individual rights, a hollow charge.

Although Ballwin is currently the only metro St. Louis city with a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance, Arnold was the first in the area to pass a comprehensive smoke-free restaurant ordinance. Unfortunately, in 2004 Arnold amended its ordinance to allow restaurants to install enclosed and separately ventilated smoking rooms.

Bill Hannegan was the third to post on-line at 12:46AM CST today [05/27/09] writing:

“The industrial air purification machines five Clayton restaurants have installed to clear their air of all the worrisome and bothersome elements of tobacco smoke also entirely filter out swine and avian flu viruses! Definitely a public health plus for Clayton restaurant employees that will be lost due to the ban.”

Clayton smoking ban gets initial OK
By Margaret Gillerman 314-725-6758
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/27/2009

CLAYTON — Clayton officials on Tuesday took a giant step toward stamping out smoking in public places by giving initial approval to a smoking ban that would affect workplaces, stores, restaurants and hotels. They also urged other local governments to enact smoking bans so the entire region could go “smoke-free.”

Clayton would become only the second among the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County to enact a ban if the aldermen and mayor approve the bill after one more reading. Ballwin is the other.

Mayor Linda Goldstein said she was willing for Clayton to lead the way and approve a ban even without similar bans by other governments but added she hoped others would follow.

“Tonight we face a big decision, one I hope will lead other municipalities to move forward on behalf of their citizens,” Goldstein told the board and an audience that included many restaurant owners who opposed the ban.

“Some people have urged Clayton not to go it alone … to wait until there is a county or statewide ban,” Goldstein said. “I agree that a more widespread ban would be ideal and I promise to continue my efforts with other municipalities and St. Louis County and city to take a regional approach to this issue. If we pass this ordinance, Clayton will serve as an example to other municipalities and will give them encouragement to pass similar legislation.”

Alderman Michelle Harris also issued a challenge to other municipalities to join Clayton.

Final approval of the Clayton ban is mostly assured. All the six aldermen and the mayor spoke passionately about their support of a smoke-free Clayton. Alderman Alex Berger III cast the only dissenting vote and said he did so only because he wanted the ban to be stricter and extend to Clayton’s parks and green space.

Clayton’s ban would have some exceptions, including allowing smoking in tobacco shops, cigar bars and 20 percent of hotel rooms. In a compromise with opponents, the ban would allow smoking on businesses’ outdoor patios.

The ban would not be implemented until July 2010 to allow for the economy to improve and for restaurants to prepare for the change.

Unlike recent public hearings on the smoking issue, the chamber had some empty seats and there were no rallies outside. But some restaurant owners showed up to voice their still strong concerns about the ban.

Alan Richman, owner of Sasha’s Wine Bar, asked the board to consider amending the bill to “grandfather in” existing businesses until other municipalities adopt bans.

Natasha Creel, an owner of Roxane’s, suggested that Clayton allow smoking for late night business at bars after the kitchens have closed.

Frank Schmitz, leader of the Clayton Restaurateurs Alliance, said after the meeting that he objected to the exceptions for hotels but not for restaurants.

Anti-smoking advocates, parents, students, other residents and local doctors have turned out in force at City Hall in the last two months to champion the ban.

At the same time, the group of restaurant owners who belong to the Clayton Restaurateurs Alliance have packed meetings to denounce the proposal, saying it could force some of their businesses to close. They’ve told the aldermen that with the terrible economy and highway closings the timing couldn’t be worse. They fear they’ll be isolated with the ban and that customers will go to other nearby communities that allow smoking.

Several aldermen said they were sensitive to those concerns and favored the one-year delay in implementing the ban.

Alderman Judy Goodman, among others, said that public health was the main issue in support of the ban. “Continuing to allow smoking in Clayton seems incompatible with our priorities and our duty to protect the health and safety of this community,” Goodman said.

Clayton restaurants assail smoking ban

This story can be viewed on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on-line here and is reproduced in its entirety below. The print version has this sub-head:

They tell hearing that ban would add to already shaky conditions; supporters plead for action

The headline makes it sound like all Clayton restaurants oppose this proposal and are joining the opposition but I suspect it’s only a vocal minority. Some genuinely fear loss of business and you can bet opponents of smoke-free air are stoking those fears.

Doesn’t it make you wonder, though, the contrast with how we treat the smoking pandemic – hold public hearings on proposed legislation – with how we deal with a possible swine flu pandemic [for which pigs are getting a bad rap]?

Incidentally, Bill Hannegan was up late this time and was the first to post an on-line comment:

“Bill Hannegan May 13, 2009 2:27AM CST
Last Friday, the most powerful St. Louis labor union, the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council (AFL-CIO), officially came out in opposition to any smoking ban in St. Louis City or County. This labor union opposition will surely kill any chance of a regionwide smoking ban for St. Louis. If Clayton imposes a smoking ban in misguided hope of jumpstarting a regionwide smoking ban, the restaurants of Clayton will suffer alone with this restriction for the foreseeable future.”

Here’s the full story by Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/13/2009

CLAYTON — A group of restaurant owners told city officials Tuesday that a proposal to require Clayton’s public places to go smoke-free could doom their businesses.

But an almost equal number of business owners and people who work in Clayton gave impassioned pleas for a smoke-free city at a packed hearing before the Board of Aldermen.

Clayton is considering stamping out smoking in public places and is leading the way in a new effort in the region. But Mayor Linda Goldstein said Tuesday night that Clayton officials want to hear from all sides and ideas before voting.

At the hearing, opponents warned that Clayton businesses would have to shut their doors and the city would lose sales taxes if the board enacted a smoking ban without a similar ban taking effect throughout the metropolitan area and statewide.

Mark Sandt, a bartender at Miso on Meramec, said that business was already down 30 to 35 percent in the current economic recession. “Honestly, I don’t think that we can take another hit,” Sandt said.

On the other side, Fred Firestone, a Clayton resident and principal of the Ethical Selling Institute in Clayton, said, “Please don’t be swayed by a small vocal minority. To me, this is pretty simple. We should promote the health of everyone by having smoke-free businesses and public places.”

Gerard Ezvan with Jon’s Pipe Shop told the board the shop had been around for decades.

“Let the marketplace decide and not the government,” he said of the proposed smoking ban.

Tom Stern, president of Solon Gershman Inc. Commercial Real Estate, said he opposed smoking but also the proposed ordinance.

“While the health-related issues of smoking are significant, you cannot ignore the economic impact this proposal would have on the city,” Stern said. “For Clayton to unilaterally impose this restriction will jeopardize businesses which have supported the city for many years with sales, property and utility taxes, events such as the Art Fair, Taste of Clayton and Parties in the Park, and provide employment to hundreds who patronize shops, stores and service providers.”

Gershman and several restaurants who opposed the idea said they would favor a countywide or statewide smoking ban but not one that would create an uneven playing field.

On the other side, Steve Ables, assistant director of the St. Louis County Municipal League, told the Board of Aldermen that the organization was on record as supporting “clean indoor air regulations in all public establishments.”

“Clayton has the opportunity to be a regional leader in these efforts, joining Ballwin and Arnold in our area, along with Kansas City, the state of Illinois, among others and even entire countries” that ban smoking in public places. “It would be a giant step in the effort to help maintain public health if the city of Clayton were to pass such an ordinance.”

Clayton’s proposed ban has sparked a regionwide debate over smoking bans in public places. Advocates hope it will lead to countywide and citywide bans and eventually a ban throughout the state. Supporters include an overwhelming 77 percent of Clayton residents who answered a survey from the city.

Since the last hearing, other towns have followed Clayton’s lead, saying they also will look into going smoke-free. Wildwood City Council members said Monday night they would consider a ban on indoor smoking in public places after a group of Rockwood Valley Middle School students asked them to.

Goldstein said she had received letters of support for a Clayton ban from the city of Ferguson and Ballwin, which already has a ban in place. Chesterfield has drafted two resolutions — one in favor of a countywide plan and another for a statewide ban that will be considered later this month.

Wildwood to consider smoking ban

The above was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on-line, and by just after midnight had already garnered its first comment from “DocGonzo” who wrote:

“Hannegen will be in here any minute telling us that second hand smoke is not bad at all for children. I guess that they should just go somewhere else as well?”

By midday there were already over 60 comments posted, but not a one from Hannegan! You can view them/add your own here.

SPECIAL TO THE POST-DISPATCH
05/12/2009
On-line here

WILDWOOD — A group of Rockwood Valley Middle School students’ award-winning presentation Monday night persuaded the Wildwood City Council to consider a ban on indoor smoking in public places.

After hearing teacher Becky Forristal’s seven-graders make their pitch for the ban, the council invited the students to meet next month with one of its legislative committees to explore the feasibility of an anti-smoking ordinance.

Clayton is currently considering an indoor smoking ordinance. Wildwood officials have discussed but never formally proposed a smoking ban, City Administrator Daniel Dubruiel said.

“We ask you to consider a ban on smoking in public places in Wildwood,” said student Jillian Pfeiffer, citing the risks second-hand smoke causes poses for adults and children.

The student presentation, “It’s No Joke, Ban the Smoke,” was packed with research about tobacco smoke’s risks and health benefits reaped by other communities that have imposed smoking bans. The project won a statewide competition sponsored by the Missouri Bar Association’s Project Citizen, a program that requires students to study public policy issues, propose solutions and act on their plans, Forristal said.

“A government can and should be concerned about the health of the community,” student Odessa Magafas told the council.

Alexis Gilner, another student, said 83 percent of the 372 Wildwood residents who responded to her class survey said they were bothered by second-hand smoke in restaurants. Wildwood has about 15 restaurants and bars.

The students urged adoption of an ordinance modeled on one in force in Ballwin, which applies to all public places, including restaurants and bars that make less than 60 percent of their income from the sale of alcohol.

Former Ballwin Mayor Walt Young joined the students in supporting the smoking ban. “It’s something you should give some real serious consideration,” Young said.

St. Louis Alderman Triplett supports smoke-free air

Kacie Starr Triplett, St. Louis Alderman, Sixth Ward, had a letter published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of Thursday, May 7, 2009, in support of the comprehensive smoke-free air legislation just introduced by fellow Alderman Lyda Krewson. Triplett is a co-sponsor, together with Marlene Davis and Donna Baringer, but with 28 wards it needs a total of 15 votes, excluding Board President, Lewis Reed.

In today’s on-line Post-Dispatch Political Fix, reporter Jake Wagman addresses the issue in a blog titled “Alderman Triplett endorses smoking ban — will others follow?

Triplett

Triplett

ST. LOUIS — Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett — never one to seek shelter in the back benches — has announced her support for a bill that has the potential to ban smoking at bars and restaurants in the city.

Triplett represents the Sixth Ward, which includes most of Lafayette Square and part of the Washington Avenue Loft District — progressive areas with plenty of trendy restaurants.

By becoming smoke-free, Triplett wrote in a letter published in today’s Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis will reinvent itself and refocus on our most important concern.”

“Creating a smoke-free city is a public health issue that city leaders cannot take lightly or ignore,” Triplett writes. “Our citizens have the right to breathe clean and healthy air. Whether one is a patron at a restaurant, an employee working a minimum-wage service job or a mother protecting her family’s health, this is a basic right to which we all are entitled.”

Along with sponsor Lyda Krewson and her two co-sponsors — Marlene Davis and Donna Baringer – Triplett’s support makes a total of at least four aldermen who have publicly stated their support for the ban, which would require St. Louis County to pass similar legislation for the prohibition to go into effect.

But for the bill to pass it would need support from at least 11 other aldermen — and, possibly, Board President Lewis Reed — which could be difficult with the Missouri Restaurant Association, among others, fighting the proposal.

Clayton’s proposed smoking ban faces a fight

The following story details opposition to the proposed Clayton smokefree air ordinance, being organized by Frank Schmitz, who owns Barcelona Tapas Restaurant in Clayton. A hearing of business owners is scheduled for May 12 at Clayton City Hall. Expect more vocal opposition based on dire predictions of lost business and closings. There are plenty of opposition comments following the on-line Post-Dispatch story here.

By Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/05/2009

CLAYTON — The leader of a group of Clayton restaurant owners says he fears “the die is cast” for city officials to enact a smoking ban and is rallying other restaurateurs to make their strongest effort to block it.

Frank Schmitz, leader of the Clayton Restaurateurs Alliance, told his fellow restaurateurs in an e-mail Monday that it appeared “the mayor and aldermen are going to push this through.”

“We only have limited time to make a strong point … and let them know about the very uncertain economic impact this will have on the city and its reputation as a dining and entertainment destination.”

The mayor insists a ban is “not a done deal.”

Schmitz, who owns Barcelona Tapas Restaurant in Clayton, said in an interview that despite his dire warnings Monday, “all is not lost.”

“It looks like a done deal, but we have a lot of fight left in this community,” he said. “I am rallying our troops.”

He said that rather than arguing health issues, as smoke-free advocates do, “we have an economic argument.”

And in case that doesn’t work, Schmitz said, he will meet today with a lawyer to explore legal options.

The proposed ban would prohibit smoking indoors in public places.

Residents, some organized as a new group calling itself “Smoke-Free Clayton,” crowded into City Hall last week to tell Mayor Linda Goldstein and the Board of Aldermen they strongly support the ban, largely for health reasons. They urged Clayton officials to lead the way among local municipalities.

A hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 12 at City Hall for the city to hear from Schmitz and other Clayton business owners, their representatives and people who work in Clayton. Restaurant and bar owners who oppose going smoke-free say a ban could force their businesses to shut down. The city has about 80 restaurants or restaurant/bars. (The city does not allow bars to operate without serving food.) About 26 restaurants with liquor licenses are actively fighting the ban, Schmitz said.

Goldstein has insisted that the ban is “not a done deal,” and she and the aldermen want to carefully consider all positions. “We want to be very, very inclusive,” she said at last week’s hearing.

Goldstein also noted that 77 percent of residents who responded to a survey said they favored a smoking ban even if no other jurisdictions pass one.

“Our community has expressed strong support for a smoking ban regardless of what the county or state does,” she said. “Most residents tell us they prefer clean air and want a smoking ban.”

The Board of Aldermen may vote May 26.

A strong advocate of the smoke-free ordinance is former mayor and alderman Ben Uchitelle, who pushed Clayton’s pioneering smoking ordinance in 1988. One of its main provisions was to require large restaurants to set aside a quarter of their space as nonsmoking.

Uchitelle said he heard many of the same arguments against restricting smoking at that time.

He said there were dire warnings that “no new restaurants would ever come to Clayton.”

That, of course, has not happened, he said.

So far, Ballwin is the only municipality in St. Louis County that has a ban. The issue has been raised at the county level, but its prospects appear slim. And a proposal for a smoking ban in St. Louis calls for it to take effect if the county passes one.

If there’s a ban in Clayton, Schmitz said, “people who come out to bars and want to smoke will not choose us. They’ll choose a place five minutes away, and our businesses will suffer. That’s the main issue.

“If we do not get a ban everywhere — in the whole county and downtown, Clayton will suffer,” he said.

Schmitz added: “If we were all on the same playing field, I would happily support a smoking ban.”