Incremental isn’t enough with public smoking ban

A letter I submitted on behalf of Missouri GASP with the above title appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of 08/15/2009 (on-line here).

I submitted it before Councilwoman Barbara Fraser’s latest bill was introduced on Tuesday, Aug 11, which contained the additional surprise of the exemption for Lambert Airport’s smoking rooms. Given that Missouri GASP has been seeking a smoke-free Lambert Airport for at least 16 years, and the tobacco industry has been working hard to prevent that from happening, this was unwelcome news to say the least.

Certainly, it’s all the more reason to oppose this bill which is too flawed to fly. Much better to strip out all the undesirable exemptions for a clean bill or start over. Councilwoman Fraser’s heart is in the right place but her initiative has unfortunately gone awry. Here’s my published letter:

The headline “Smoking ban gets boost in council” (Aug. 5) belies the reality.
A good bill with some minor blemishes but no major exemptions was defeated in favor of a bill exempting small bars and casinos, which are major omissions. Additionally, even if the bill eventually is approved by the County Council, that only puts it on the November ballot, involving a costly fight and leaving plenty of room for deceptive opposition tactics.

If this were an impending flu epidemic, such action would be considered criminal negligence. Can we really compare this to an epidemic? Absolutely. The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on secondhand smoke estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and tens of thousands of deaths because of heart disease every year among exposed nonsmokers in the United States.

The New York City health department estimated 1,000 residents were dying annually from secondhand smoke prior to its comprehensive Smoke Free Air Act, which went into effect in March 2003.

The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services’ latest data for 2007 reveals that only 18.6 percent of adults in St. Louis County smoke. That greatly undermines the fear-mongering economic arguments opponents make.

Missouri GASP previously believed that the goal of smoke-free air could only be achieved incrementally, which has proved both slow and uncertain. Clayton’s approach, demonstrating how an informed council can act decisively and enact a strong comprehensive ordinance, is clearly better.

Even tobacco states are leading the way. I attended a conference in mid-July 2007, in Louisville, Ky., and was surprised to find all the restaurants and bars had gone smoke-free just two weeks earlier.

What’s stopping the St. Louis County Council?

Martin Pion — St. Louis County
President, Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) Inc.

2 responses to “Incremental isn’t enough with public smoking ban

  1. Wonderful letter, Martin. Keep up the great work

  2. The tax exempt American Cancer tricked the voters of Ohio into voting for a ban with exemptions, only to have them removed AFTER they were voter approved. If they got away with it once, you know they’ll do it again. “Thank you American Cancer Society, we never knew all you do” The private vets clubs of Ohio who thought they were exempt according to the ballot know what they do. I’m sure they are remembering them with with their donations.and estate plans.

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