Monthly Archives: August 2009

Columnist Bill McClellan on tobacco lobbyist John Britton, aka “Mayor of Jefferson City”

John Britton in his Jefferson City office (Photograph courtesy & copyright: Parker Eshelman)

John Britton in his Jefferson City office (Photograph courtesy & copyright: Parker Eshelman)

I came across the following story recently in my file on the tobacco lobby in Jefferson City which I hadn’t viewed in years. It reminded me again why, after over a decade lobbying for a statewide smoke-free air bill, I had concluded that damage control was our main role in the state capitol and Missouri GASP’s focus should be on promoting strong local ordinances.

It also brought back vividly an early encounter with John Britton, lobbyist for both The Tobacco Institute and Anheuser Busch in Jefferson City. It was during a February 1986 public hearing before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, chaired appropriately by the late pipe-smoking Senator J.B. “Jet” Banks, as shown in this old newspaper photo.

sen-j-b-jet-banks-hires

Sen. J. B. “Jet” Banks

Following testimony from supporters of a fairly weak bill, John Britton rose and started talking about the court of King Arthur and the days of chivalry. What this had to do with secondhand smoke I don’t recall but I do remember thinking his testimony was so garbled the bill was certain to be voted out of committee.

Instead it died in committee.

A similar bill was only voted out – and promptly – a couple of years later once it had been fatally altered with an amendment insisted on by Britton, the so-called preemption amendment, to make the proposed weak state law the strongest allowed in the state. I hope to write more in a subsequent blog but for now please read Bill McClellan’s insightful piece below, published March 11, 1990.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, Bill McClellan, March 11, 1990

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, Bill McClellan, March 11, 1990

Smoke-free air bill: Charlie Dooley’s signing statement & Barbara Fraser’s Press Release

Dan Martin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dan Martin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I received the following news release from County Executive Charlie Dooley’s office at 5:00 pm, Friday, August 28, 2009. It confirmed information I had received earlier today from Mr. Darin Cline, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, St. Louis County Government, that Mr. Dooley had decided to sign the bill but he would have preferred a stronger piece of legislation.

Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, who led this effort, issued a press release later, appended below.

Missouri GASP has made very clear before St. Louis County Council during recent weeks that our current goal is legislation providing comprehensive protection so that no employee has to endure secondhand smoke as part of their job description.

However, we recognize that this legislation can provide a springboard for that goal. We can point to the fact that not only has a fairly comprehensive smoke-free air bill been approved by a majority of the county council, but it also received the support of the County Executive, which has never happened before.

This could be the key to getting really strong protection not only in St. Louis County but in the entire state of Missouri. It just needs leadership and a willingness to work together towards that goal.

Charlie Dooley signing bill

Charlie Dooley signing bill

Note: Image from ksdk.com. For more from TV News Channel 5 please click here.

News from CHARLIE A. DOOLEY
Saint Louis County Executive

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 28, 2009
Contact: Mac Scott
(314) 615-4654

DOOLEY SIGNS BILL FOR SMOKING BAN VOTE

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley gave his approval to the St. Louis County Council’s legislation calling for an election to decide on a smoking ban in St. Louis County. Circuit Judge John Ross subsequently ordered the measure to be placed on the November 3, 2009 ballot. The measure will be called Proposition N.

“I believe St. Louis County has a responsibility to lead by example and this measure puts us on a course to address this important public health issue, which, in the end, could help us get a more effective statewide smoking ban. In addition, I strongly believe St. Louis County voters deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard and to decide the fate of this indoor smoking ban,” Dooley said.

The proposed smoking ban legislation can be viewed on St. Louis County’s web page, www.stlouisco.com.
——————————————–
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: St. Louis County Councilwoman
Barbara Fraser
Telephone: 314-615-5441
Email: bfraser@stlouisco.com

August 28, 2009

St. Louis County Executive Dooley Signs Smoking Ban Measure
Bipartisan measure will be on the November ballot

St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley signed a bill today that will let voters decide on November 3 to ban smoking in nearly all indoor public places. County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser (D-5th District) sponsored the bill. In addition to Fraser, voting in support were Colleen Wasinger (R-3rd District), Steve Stenger (D-6th District) and Greg Quinn (R-7th District).
“I am pleased that the County Executive has chosen to let the voters decide their position on this critical health issue,” said Fraser. “My simple objective has been to protect the health of county residents. I am proud of the bipartisan effort that was made to create an effective bill,” added Fraser. Councilman Stenger agreed with Fraser. “This bill was about doing the right thing at the right time for the citizens of this county,” said Stenger.
The bill, which the County Council passed by a vote of four to three Tuesday night, provides protections from secondhand smoke in nearly all public places in St. Louis County. The United States Surgeon General determined that second hand smoke is dangerous and harmful to human health. Lung cancer, heart disease, SIDS, and asthma among others have all been linked to exposure to second hand smoke.

Joint statement by ACS, ALA, AHA, & Tobacco Free Missouri on St. Louis County smoke-free airbill

The major voluntary health agencies and Tobacco Free Missouri have just aired ads on KMOX Radio in opposition to the smoke-free air bill which was approved on August 25. The aim is to persuade St. Louis County Executive, Charlie Dooley, to veto it and push for a stronger bill with no significant exemptions. Below is their press release.

For more information contact:

April Dzubic, American Cancer Society
W: 314-286-8187, C: 314-488-4120
april.dzubic@cancer.org

Michelle Bernth, American Lung Association
W: 314-645-5505, ext 1001
mbernth@breathehealthy.org

JOINT STATEMENT
COUNTY COUNCIL ACTION ON SMOKE-FREE PROPOSAL

The American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and Tobacco Free Missouri are extremely disappointed that the St. Louis County Council has voted to send a confusing and badly flawed smoke-free proposal to the ballot. We oppose the proposal because it does not fully protect the public’s right to breathe smoke-free air, makes enforcement unworkable, and unfairly pits business against business. We now call on County Executive Dooley to reject this ordinance in its current form and to ask the Council to start over with a more deliberative process that yields meaningful health protection for St. Louis County.

We hoped the Council would send an ordinance to the people that would do what it was intended to do – truly protect workers and patrons from secondhand smoke, in a way that is easy for people to understand and easy to enforce. We thank the many residents who voiced their support for a strong and comprehensive measure that covers all workplaces, including bars and restaurants and urge everyone to continue the fight for smoke-free air.

Instead, the Council has passed a proposal that compromises the health of those employees and patrons most exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoke-free ordinances are intended to protect employees and customers of all businesses, not just some. Under this proposal, bars will be able to obtain a license from the county to allow smoking. In effect, this will give bars a county-issued license to harm the health of its employees and customers.

Additionally, the proposal contains ten loopholes and many flaws in the language. And as we have seen in many other communities, this leads to confusion and can create expensive enforcement issues and potential legal challenges.

The evidence is clear: In the end, a weak ordinance ends up compromising the health of workers and the public, offers false reassurance, and stands in the way of future efforts. With the abundant science about the dangers of secondhand smoke, exemptions for certain workplaces are no longer acceptable.

In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General stated, “The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease.” Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma.

Aug. 25: St. Louis County smoke-free air bill gets 4:3 vote; next stop may be County Exec.

I attended the St. Louis County Council meeting which started at 6 pm on Tuesday, August 25. Councilwoman Barbara Fraser’s bill evidently still contained exemptions for small bars, the gaming floor of casinos, and Lambert Airport’s smoking rooms, plus some other exemptions.

Councilman Fraser: Channel 5 interview just prior to council meeting

Councilman Fraser: Fox 2 News interview just prior to council meeting


Before the meeting Councilwoman Fraser was good enough to give me some of her time after being interviewed at the County Government Center by Channel 5 and Fox 2 News. During the latter interview she said:

“If we want to get started on this endeavor compromise is necessary.”

She reiterated to me that she had tried to get a stronger bill passed with none of the above exemptions but she was one short of the three other votes she needed, adding that she had worked hard for three months to get the support she needed.

She felt that this bill was still a strong bill, noting that the small bar exemption would apply to only 60 of the 1,000 bars with a liquor license in the county.

Missouri GASP has sought a smoke-free Lambert Airport for well over a decade and when asked if she could remove that exemption Councilwoman Fraser demurred. Our conversation ended amicably but with our differences unreconciled.

Councilwoman Hazel Erby was also willing to meet briefly before the meeting and provided a further reason for her earlier objection to the bill: the exemption for smoking in nursing homes. She intimated that this evening’s vote didn’t mean that the bill would move forward. However, a TV news report I read later in the evening on ksdk.com indicated otherwise:

“KSDK – The St. Louis County Council voted in favor of a proposed smoking ban Tuesday night.

The measure will go before County Executive Charlie Dooley and wind up on the November ballot. However, Dooley could still veto the bill. If voters pass the legislation in November, the law would go into effect in 2011.”

I was the first to be called to speak during the PUBLIC FORUM (please see my testimony below) and made detailed notes of those following me who spoke for and against, as well as during the discussion and vote on the bill itself. I’ve attached those notes below following my testimony.

GASP logo color
Testimony during Public Forum of St. Louis County Council Meeting, Tuesday, August 25, 2009, by Martin Pion, President, Missouri GASP

Madam Chairman, Members of the County Council, and County Executive:

I admit to being conflicted on this bill. I don’t typically visit small bars or casinos, so the major exemptions, other than the smoking rooms at Lambert Airport, don’t affect me personally.

However, Missouri GASP’s goal is to provide 100% protection for everyone, both members of the public and private employees. How do you, in good conscience, omit some individuals from this bill and say their lives aren’t worth protecting?

Those working in casinos and bars are among those most exposed to secondhand smoke, yet you’re telling them this is a good bill?

Martin Pion testifying (image from Fox 2 News at http://tinyurl.com/mm46ky)

Martin Pion testifying (image from Fox 2 News at http://tinyurl.com/mm46ky)

Agreed Councilwoman Fraser’s bill makes many places smoke-free, but exemptions send a mixed message: that secondhand smoke isn’t really that dangerous because we’re arbitrarily allowing it in some places.  Exemptions also invite charges of discrimination. 

Another major objection is putting it on the ballot, instead of the county council enacting it and putting it into effect promptly. A ballot measure will involve enormous amounts of time, energy and money with a very uncertain outcome. How can you justify ducking your responsibility by doing that?

The effective date can be delayed for existing businesses to give them time to adapt to the new rules and for the economy to improve but the bill must protect the health and welfare of all workers and all patrons through a 100% smoke-free policy.

State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford just wrote to you committing to work for a comprehensive statewide smoke-free air bill but, she added, that required the impetus of a strong countywide bill

Those living and working in the county are yearning for leadership on this issue.

Now is the time for you to provide it.

Remainder of PUBLIC FORUM and vote on Bill# 228:

Dr. David Esher, physician – No one should smoke, but they’re entitled to make their own decision. I remember a girl sitting in the back seat of a car with smoking adults, making her eyes burn and causing her to cough. This bill gives me the opportunity to take my children to smoke-free environments. A child doesn’t have the choice when they go to a restaurant and sees someone smoking. And they may have asthma. Think about your own children.

David Kunemann – [MP: Retired chemist] Bill bans electronic cigarettes, which contain glycol and nicotine and what’s wrong with that? They won’t hurt anyone else in those environments.
The ban is to protect nonsmokers. If that is purpose you should prohibit radon.
If we want safe air lets not just discriminate against smokers.
80-90% of SHS can be kept out of areas by ventilation.
This is just class warfare against smokers

John Stein – Family physician in Chesterfield, member of many societies and all these organizations support that SHS should be eliminated. It’s a preventable disease. We can join other states.
All or nothing is ideal but we don’t live in an ideal world and I believe this is the best ord. we can achieve now.
Suppose you had 20 people drowning out at sea but only save 15 you’d save those you could and come back later. [MP: If we’re talking about employees on the gaming floor of a casino it may be too late to come back later. There is no knowing when you may be able to come back and provide them protection.]
Allow the public to vote for smoke-free air.

Bill Hannegan (KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE!) – Papers are predicted effect of a smoking ban in city and county, up to 63% of restaurants would see a loss and 80% in bars
1.1% decline in employment.
County will be unable to compete with city if you pass this.
Stenger’s district has over 40 bars so looks very much like the city, unlike west county, for example.

Joe Toenges, Kirkwood – Thanked Burkett, Erby, and O’Mara for opposing bill.
If you give them an inch they’ll take a mile. Ask them what happened in Ohio where they came back and extended the smoking ban after getting it passed.
These people are zealots. They say: We’ll keep doing this until it passes. Only thing they want to do is shove their agenda down our throats in a sad and bullying way. Mr. Dooley, veto this bill, which is nonsense.

Walter Sumner – Faculty member of Wash U., Remind you again about the small particles in tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes are fine, as are smokeless tobacco. I would like a society governed by Libertarian principles but when people are injured by small particles in cig. smoke and society bears those costs, thinks it’s appropriate for the vote

Ald. Fred Meyland-Smith

Ald. Fred Meyland-Smith

Ald. Phil Behnen

Ald. Phil Behnen

Ald. Lynn Wright

Ald. Lynn Wright


Town & Country Ald. Fred Meyland-Smith & Phil Behnen – As elected officials we understand the issues you face when considering a smoking ban. We strongly want you to proceed with the bill but it should be a uniform prohibition. Our board recently approved a resolution supporting your action. You have as your core responsibility protecting the health and welfare of your constituents.
(Note: Ald. Lynn Wright, who was to have joined her two colleagues, was delayed but arrived later.)

Sharon Hall – Can’t imagine why people would put money before health. My mother has had numerous surgeries, and still can’t sit on the toilet as a result of numerous leg amputations. Is 77 years old and weighs 67 lbs and just brought her home. [MP: I concluded mother is a smoker but wasn’t clear.]
Some of these people smoking in casinos and bars – whose going to take care of them?

Barber xxx – Generally when these smoking bills start they have good intentions, but there’s compromises, make unlikely bedfellows in the political process. Quinn gave us a sermon last week but voted against it 3 years ago. Barbara is running for higher office. Stenger has the casino.

Mayor Harold Diehlmann City of Creve Coeur – We were one of the 5 cities that started the ball rolling and I endorse the bill, even though it’s not perfect. When the state passes a bill that will make a level playing field .

Julie Stone, Libertarian Party, St. Louis – Unfair, and causes an undue economic burden on businesses. Suggested at least let businesses post a sign so patrons can make an informed opinion before they enter the bar. [MP: This kind of signage only approach is straight out of the tobacco lobby’s playbook.]

Marty Ginsburg – KMOX Radio was saying this is going to pass 4:3 as I was driving here so I almost turned around. In 2006 the Health Dept. was going to be given the same responsibility but said where are we going to get the money? What blows my mind is why are Creve Coeur and Town & Country coming here instead of doing it themselves? I’m tired of hearing parents with children coming here saying we can’t come into your bar.
See that Fraser took out 25% requirement for bars from the bill. Quinn & Stenger are attorneys: if this were black people you’d behave differently.

Jeff Gerhman, Independent Tavern Association – I applaud what you’re doing despite what I expect to happen tonight. I think this will have a devastating effect on small bars. The bill doesn’t represent a diversity of views and will clearly pit the city against the county. Casinos are exempt. There was an opportunity to permit air filtration to take out SHS instead of moving it elsewhere. Dooley we ask that you veto this bill.

Matthew Brown – Live in city but they’ve said numerous times that they’re waiting for the county to take the lead. I believe that eventually we’ll get a bill. Supports a partial bill.
We save a lot of time if our elected reps. look into the issue and come to a conclusion.
Believe citizens deserve to breathe clean air.

Public Comments portion ended at 6:42 pm

County Exec. said this county is moving forward on smoking in a holistic way.

Bill #228 introduced by Council member Fraser; Second Quinn

Erby – No
Burkett, No. Same as 4 years ago. I don’t see a smoking ban working in SLCty unless it’s statewide. Plus why is it exempting certain things. I’ve never been in favor of a smoking ban. My job has been cut in half by the economy and I do believe that this will effect businesses.
Wasinger – Yes. It’s a controversial issue. I do listen to each of you. My motive is to give the voters the opportunity to decide if most people in the county want smoke-free air. This isn’t perfect but it’s worth supporting.
O’Mara – No
Fraser – Yes. If this bill passes St Louis County voters will have the opportunity to vote on bill which provides for s/free air in most places. If we’d past this bill in 2005 how many people would not be alive today.
Stenger – Yes

Councilman Quinn: Exemptions may cover 5% of the buildings in St. Louis County

Councilman Quinn (left) commenting before voting, with Councilwoman Wasinger looking on


Quinn – Yes. “Some people have said there are a lot of exemptions in the bill, but my belief is that the exemptions may cover 5% of the buildings in St. Louis County.” There is an exemption for bars, but there are very few exemptions and I think it’s good to allow voters to decide.
4 Ayes
3 Noes
Bill finally passed.

Blowing smoke on secondhand smoke

While I frequently read Bill McClellan’s column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and generally find them insightful, on the subject of secondhand smoke I’ve found him to be reliably ill-informed, and showing a Libertarian bias, i.e. small government is better than good government.

Today’s column was no exception, but the title is apt, because it’s Bill who’s blowing smoke on this one.

He makes the same mistake as other opponents of smoke-free air, using the “slippery slope” argument of “where will it all end?”

He notes that the bill has many exemptions and writes:

“Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.
To me, that’s frightening.”

Frightening because he suggests that once we succeed in getting protection from secondhand smoke we’ll go on to prohibit his favorite unhealthy food. Not only is Bill confused but he’s misinformed.

Speaking personally, and I suspect for many others seeking smokefree air, my only goal is protection from secondhand smoke, which has had a major negative impact on both my work life and social life for decades. That is particularly true since I emigrated to the U.S. in early 1977 where workplace smoking has been far more prevalent than in England.

In St. Louis I worked at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. for over 11 years, starting in 1980, most of that time managing a laser diode fabrication lab., and I avoided any meetings I could for much of that time because of pervasive smoking. I also spoke out against workplace smoking. Neither of those things helped my career.

My wife stopped taking me on trips because my attempts to avoid secondhand smoke when I was with her, or complaints about it, were like a ball and chain around her ankle. If we ever go out together now it has to be to a guaranteed smoke-free venue.

These are issues about which Bill McClellan, who is evidently not susceptible to secondhand smoke, is totally unaware and unconcerned. Too bad, because I think he could be influential in a positive way, instead of pouring scorn on those for whom it’s a major issue.

Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan


Blowing smoke on secondhand smoke

Bill McClellan
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/21/2009

Although I know I should eat healthy foods, I found myself in front of the vending machine in the newsroom the other day. The animal crackers looked good. Plus, there was a notice on the package — “Only 1.5 grams of fat per serving.” Truth be told, the notice could have said, “Only 30 grams of fat per serving.” I would have been just as impressed.

Who knows about grams of fat? People never used to worry about such things.

My grandmother lived with us when I was small. My mother worked, and so my grandmother was in charge of lunch. She was not much of a cook, so usually I made myself a sandwich. My favorite was mayonnaise and mustard on white bread. Of course, white bread. In those happy times, whole wheat bread was considered something primitive. It is what cave people used to eat. Then society advanced and scientists developed white bread. It tasted better and so it replaced whole wheat bread. The only people who still ate whole wheat bread wore animal skins. If you wore clothes, you ate white bread.

Sometimes my grandmother gave me some change and let me go to the nearby bakery on Halsted Street to get lunch. I always bought the same thing. Two long johns. If there was anything richer than white bread, this was it. Grams of fat per serving? No one would have thought to ask.

This was in the days before pizza. That is not entirely true. There was a pizza joint near the bakery. I remember when it opened. The sign said, “Pizza Pie.” My mother commented on the sign. She thought it spoke well of the Italians that they could laugh at themselves. She thought they were calling their place “Pizza Pie” to mimic the way they spoke. As in, “I’ll have a pizza that cherry pie.”

In fact, my mother went in to the pizza joint one day to get a pie, and was astonished to learn that they didn’t have cherry pies or apple pies, but instead had sausage pies and anchovy pies. It was hard to believe that the people who had given the world such staples as spaghetti and macaroni had suddenly gone exotic. My mother had no interest in buying a sausage or anchovy pie and her feelings had nothing to do with grams of fat.

In addition to being happily oblivious to grams of fat, we didn’t worry about secondhand smoke. In fact, no one had heard of secondhand smoke. It was just plain old smoke, the sort that wafted around in our kitchen when dad smoked at dinner. He smoked the way people used to, which is to say guilt-free. In the kitchen. Or in the living room. Or in the car. Nobody thought anything about it.

I am not a smoker myself, but I sometimes feel a pang of envy when I watch old movies and see the people smoking with no self-consciousness at all. They’re not trying to act cool or rebellious, and they are not mindful about where the smoke goes. Why should they be? It’s just smoke. That is the way people used to feel.

No longer, of course. Those of us who live in St. Louis County are going to have a chance to vote this November on a plan to limit smoking. The plan would ban smoking in many so-called public places. I say so-called because the ban would impact restaurants which are owned by private individuals. I have a hard time thinking of them as public places.

To me, privately owned means privately owned. If the owner wants to cater to non-smokers — and we’re the majority — he or she can ban smoking.

Bear in mind, too, that the ban is not absolute. If food is less than 25 percent of an establishment’s gross income, the establishment can apply for an exemption. Also, casinos are exempt. Also, private clubs are exempt.

These exemptions would seem to put the lie to the notion that we are attempting to do this for the sake of the employees who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Why should the employees of a casino be any less deserving of our protection than the employees of a restaurant? What about employees at private clubs?

Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.

To me, that’s frightening.

Right now, we’re going after second-hand smoke. But what about grams of fat? Admittedly, you are not risking injury if you sit next to somebody eating a high-fat snack, but if we start talking about the overall cost to society of obesity and the Greater Good and all that, well, it’s easy to see where this could lead.

After all, the crusade against cigarettes started with warning labels. I thought about that when I saw the notice on the animal crackers.

By the way, the machine didn’t take my dollar. Not to worry. I went home and had a pizza cherry pie. That’s still legal.

Bar owners are on the spot with St. Louis County smoking bill

A front page story with the above headline appeared in the Community section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday (August 19, 2009). Assuming Councilwoman Barbara Fraser’s smoke-free air bill passes and is approved by the voters in November, how will it be enforced in bars and elsewhere, especially given the added twist of an exemption for some bars?

That was part of the thrust of this story. The other was the reaction from those bar owners directly affected by the legislation, and the concern they had of losing customers to nearby exempted locations, including casinos.

I understand the reporters talking to bars owners. They’re an easy (and vocal) group to identify. But I’d like to also see them investigating the other side of the story. What about asthmatics and others who are extremely smoke-sensitive and whose lives are consequently severely restricted? And when they do try to lead something like a normal life are frequently sickened by secondhand smoke exposure in public venues.

A prime example is Don Young, a former smoker and laryngectomy survivor, who’s health is fragile and who is now extremely smoke-sensitive. You can read his story on-line here.

Don Young after cancer surgery to remove larynx

Don Young after cancer surgery to remove larynx

They are part of the unseen and unheard majority. Their story should be told too!

By the way if you click on the link to the on-line story, as of 1:27 pm on Thursday, August 20, it had attracted no less than 171 comments! The first one, from “firsties,” likens supporters of smoke-free air to Commies. I suppose that’s an improvement over Nazis!

firsties August 18, 2009 9:24PM CST
I will never accept the results of a public election. What kind of country do we live in that allows the public to decide to ban smoking. This must be commie Russia or something. Whats next allowing a measure to ban smoking even at bars and having the people decide.

Bar owners are on the spot with St. Louis County smoking bill
By Phil Sutin and Paul Hampel
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/19/2009

If St. Louis County voters decide on Nov. 3 to ban smoking in indoor public places, county officials would take the word of bar owners who apply for an exemption.

An election bill exempts casino floors and “drinking establishments” whose income from food is 25 percent or less of gross income. Exemption applicants would certify they meet the measure’s requirements. An earlier version of the smoking ban bill would have required them to submit receipts and data about their expenses and income relating to food and alcohol sales to support their applications.

On Tuesday night, the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 at its regular meeting to move the bill toward final passage next week.

The agency that would implement the measure, the licensing section of the county’s revenue department, has only three employees and soon will be down to two as a staff member is transferring to another county job.

Eugene Leung, director of the revenue department, said Monday that he could not add another employee to handle applications because of a hiring freeze.

Some bar owners, meanwhile, are unhappy about the prospect of a smoking ban.

“It’s looking like I’m going to get the shaft no matter what,” Kevin Gallagher, owner of the Sports Attic in Brentwood, said.

Leung said his department’s licensing section would handle the bar exemption in a way similar to processing applications for Sunday liquor licenses. Those licenses require establishments to have at least 50 percent of gross sales from food or sales of $200,000 a year. The county’s Sunday liquor application form does not make applicants provide documentation to back up the monthly breakdown of sales of food and liquor that they put on their form.

Applications for a Sunday liquor license must be notarized, and so would the form for a smoking ban exemption. Putting incorrect information on a notarized form could get applicants in legal trouble, Leung said.

The county agency, which also handles a variety of other licenses, is set up to process applications, not investigate them, Leung said.

County liquor applicants also must obtain a state license. The state will verify information in Sunday license applications if its agents doubt their accuracy, Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the division of alcohol and tobacco, said Friday. The agents can require applicants to show such items as food guest checks, cash register tapes and food and liquor invoices.

The bill sets a $35 application fee for the smoking ban exemption.

It also says the county health department or its designee would enforce the ban.

Gallagher said a smoking ban would put his Sports Attic in a precarious situation.

“My business is about 50/50 food and alcohol,” Gallagher said. “But I would estimate that at least half of my customers are smokers, and if this passes, they will not be happy campers. They will go down to the other bars where they can drink and smoke and watch sports.”

Gallagher said, “What I’m trying to figure out now is whether it would make financial sense for me to cut back on my menu choices in order to boost liquor sales to 75 percent. That way, I’d keep my smoking customers. But if I fall below 51 percent on food sales, then I lose my Sunday license and can’t open for football games.”

One of the venues that Gallagher said might grab his smoking customers in the event of a ban is the Sideline Bar, just two blocks west of the Sports Attic on Manchester Road.

Joyce Trokey, the Sideline Bar manager, said food accounts for less than 25 percent of her business. That would put her in a position to benefit from the business of smokers who would stop going to bars where their habit is forbidden.

“Sure, we could use the extra business,” she said. “But as a non-smoker myself, I say bring on a total ban, in every municipality. That would be the only fair way to do it,” she said.

The bar and restaurant in the well-known Yacovelli’s restaurant in Florissant are physically separate. “I’m not against a smoking ban,” owner Jack Yacovelli said. “But I know without a doubt we’ll lose our smokers to nearby bars where they will still be allowed to light up,” he said.

“That is just blatantly unjust. It’s got to be all or nothing. And what really irks me is that (the County Council) will exempt the (casinos). I think they’re favoring them because they’re a big tax cash cow.”

County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, who introduced the bill, has declined to discuss the compromises she made to get the support she needs. She has said she prefers a clean-air bill without the casino floor and bar exemptions but she said “this bill is a critical bill. This bill will help.”

By the time the final vote on the measure takes place on Tuesday, the deadline will have passed for putting the issue on the November ballot. So if the smoking ban is approved by the council, a court order will be required before it can go before voters on Nov. 3.

“Report for airport says smoking lounges work” …. NOT!

The headline of Post-Disptach reporter Phil Sutin’s POLITICAL FIX blog practically made my blood boil. Yet another study commissioned by Lambert Airport officials designed to fool legislators considering making the airport smoke-free into believing it should be exempted.

This is Lambert Airport’s modus operandi every time it fears it may be forced to go smoke-free, whether by the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County, both of which have jurisdiction.

The airport as usual got an industrial hygienist to do an invalid study to show the smoking rooms work and aren’t a problem. Invalid because the study uses a federal standard for nicotine vapor from tobacco in cigarette manufacturing plants and applies that to nicotine generated when you burn tobacco in a cigarette.

This is like suggesting that sniffing on an unlit cigarette is as risky as inhaling the toxins and carcinogens produced by a burning cigarette that lead to lung cancer and heart disease.

The most compelling part of these “studies” is a visual smoke test showing simulated smoke from a puffer being pulled into the open doorway of a smoking room at the airport. Such tests are routinely used by HVAC [Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning] engineers as a rough way to verify airflow at exhaust vents. To the lay person this visual is compelling evidence: after all, seeing is believing.

The first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report dealing with the subject of secondhand smoke, published in 1986, explains why that doesn’t apply. On page 137, in a section titled “Number and Size Distribution of Particles in Environmental Tobacco Smoke,” it notes that most secondhand smoke is invisible, being in the size range of approximately 0.2 microns to 0.4 microns. (For comparison, a human hair is typically about 4 thousandths of an inch, or 100 microns, in diameter, or 250 to 500 times larger.)

The report notes:

“ETS particles are in the diffusion-controlled regime for particle removal and therefore will tend to follow stream lines, remain airborne for long periods of time, and rapidly disperse through open volumes.”

In fact, from my knowledge of diffusion when I worked in a semiconductor lab. making laser diodes, particles this small move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration, even in the presence of a countervailing force, such as provided by an exhaust fan connected to a ceiling vent like those provided in airport smoking rooms.

I’m not just speculating on this effect. Missouri GASP has proved it repeatedly, and the results for the airport smoking rooms can be found in the peer-reviewed study “Airport smoking rooms don’t work,” published in March, 2004 in the international journal, Tobacco Control, published by the BMJ [British Medical Journal]. You can find the study instantly on-line by Googling on the title: Airport smoking rooms don’t work.

I referred the reporter to James Repace, an international expert on secondhand smoke who lives in Bowie, MD, to provide a response which you can read in the article appended below. But oh, that headline still bugs me!

08.14.2009 3:23 pm
Report for airport says smoking lounges work
By Phil Sutin
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Smoking lounges at Lambert Airport succeed in keeping smoke in the lounges and out of the concourses where they are located, a recent report says.

Golder Associates Inc., the environmental consultant to the airport, said “smoking lounges are effective at preventing nicotine, respirable suspended particulates and gaseous contaminants from migrating from the lounges into the adjacent airport corridors/hallways.”

St. Louis County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University, has introduced a bill to ask voters to ban smoking in indoor public areas. At the request of Lambert officials, smoking lounges at the airport are one of the exemptions in her proposal.

The company from St. Charles gave the lounges a favorable opinion in late June. A subcontractor, Professional Environmental Engineers Inc. of St. Louis, in mid-May tested the air in and near all but one of the smoking lounges in seven of the eight lounges in concourses. The untested lounge is in a concourse the airport closed. The tests occurred in the daytime of weekdays May 8, 11, 12 and 14.

The study cost no more than $15,000, Jeff Lea, an airport spokesman, said Thursday. About once a year, the airport tests the effectiveness of the lounges, he said.

Smoking lounges come in varying sizes. They have an open door to concourses. The airport uses negative air pressure and air handling systems keep the smoking material in the lounges.

Professional Environmental Engineers tested each concourses for:

> Nicotine in the air.

> Airborne fine particles.

> Airborne microscopic particles.

> Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature and relative humidity in the lounges.

> Airborne smoke tests.

Generally, the Professional Environmental Engineers put testing equipment at one or more places inside the lounges, at the doorway and 10 feet to 25 feet away from the doorway.

The results showed that the items being tested were in larger concentrations inside the lounges than outside with the exception of airborne microscopic particles at the C concourse lounge and carbon monoxide at the E concourse lounge.

Opponents of the smoking lounges questioned the study. “I don’t think the study has any validity,” said James Repace of Repace Associates Inc. of Bowie, Md. He is a biophysist who is a consultant on the handling of second-hand smoke. He spoke to the county council against the lounges when the council was considering a smoking ban in 2005 and 2006.

The nicotine standards cited in the Lambert study are for workers exposed to nicotine vapors at tobacco processing factories, not for nicotine for second-hand smoke, he said. The study did not take into account air turbulence that lets some tobacco smoke out when people leave smoking lounges, he said.

The only way for smoking lounges to keep second-hand smoke out of concourses is to have an airlock at entrances, Repace said.