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.

36 responses to “Bar owners are on the spot with St. Louis County smoking bill

  1. Be careful of the fine print on the ballot. 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 learned what they do. I’m sure they are remembering them with with their donations.and estate plans.

    http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2007/04/30/smoking.html

  2. By no means do I approve of everything the American Cancer Society does. In fact, they have proved to be unreliable allies on the issue of secondhand smoke in the past.
    However, I cannot comment on this particular issue, of which I’m uninformed.

  3. MOGASP wrote, ” 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. ”

    Which is exactly why you should be AGAINST smoking bans Mogasp, although you don’t seem to realize this.

    Without bans those folks can freely walk down the streets of the cities to their favorite smoke-free bar or restaurant secure in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to encounter more than the most ghostly occasional scent of tobacco smoke along the way. Smokers will not be crowding the sidewalks and they most certainly won’t be standing around outside the smoking banned restaurant: they’ll be at the ones that allow smoking.

    And once inside that smoking banned facility, there are unlikely to be any smokers smoking in the restrooms or lighting up on their way out the door.

    So that’s why you should actually be AGAINST these bans Mogasp… if your concern is truly about those most seriously affected.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    • I’m sorry, Michael, but your argument makes absolutely no sense. The highly smoke-sensitive individuals such as I described are currently being denied access to every business where smoking is allowed and unfortunately the government is derelict in its duty by continuing to allow it.

  4. The old “divide and conquer” method.

  5. Mogasp, those few individuals such as you describe however now have NO businesses they can walk to without encountering clouds of smoke along the way or outside the doors or emanating from the restrooms. Without bans they’d have virtually no smoke outside and an enormous selection of truly smoke-free meccas to choose from inside. I pointed this problem out five years ago in Brains:

    ===

    “The Truly Affected are both the most fortunate beneficiaries and the most unfortunate victims of the Antismoking Crusade. Those with actual antigenic physically based reactions (an unknown but probably very small fraction of the whole) would normally be thought to have benefited greatly from the enormous expansion of smoke-free venues offered over the last 15 years.

    Ironically it could be argued that they have not benefited as much as it first appears. The Truly Affected used to have at least some venues that were filled almost exclusively with nonsmokers and had no smokers clustering in the bathroom or outside the doorway. Nowadays those venues, being no different than others that have simply been forced to enact bans, attract a sizeable percentage of smokers and possible encounters with smoke! With the advent of universal bans came the loss of true smoke-free meccas for those most strongly concerned.

    Meanwhile, those with psychosomatic reactions have had their lives strongly impacted in a negative sense by the propaganda that has engendered or magnified these reactions. The recruitment of this cadre of Crusaders by extremists playing upon their fears has probably had far more of a real cost to human well being than any benefits it may have conferred.”

    … and it’s only gotten worse for them since then as it’s been compounded by a problem I did not foresee: smokers filling the sidewalks in urban entertainment districts.

    Mogasp, you should be working your tail off to get those smokers back inside to comfortable and separately ventilated smoking rooms and venues where they can relax and smoke with their friends away from people who want to avoid smoke.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    • Michael, It’s estimated that about 5% of the Missouri population consists of smoke-sensitive asthmatics, so that still amounts to quite a few individuals. But in any case they don’t deserve to have access denied because of a behavior which can easily be regulated.

      Also, you are describing a dystopia when you talk about all the clouds of smoke which such people encounter now or would encounter if indoor public places and workplaces are made smokefree and entrances are also required to be smokefree.

      Ask any of the individuals I know what they would prefer. You are simply not describing reality.

  6. They get a ban in one town, then when all the bar patrons skip town, the bar owners want the next town to to ban smoking also, so they claim that they really WANT a ban, although it’s just to hopefully regain some of the business they lost.

  7. So Mogasp, are you saying that those 5% are not enough to worry about and that if they have difficulties walking through groups of smokers they should just stuff it? Or that the “clouds of smoke” that Antismokers complain about so much outside are merely the products of neurotic imaginations? Or that the 5% are actually so many that they cannot fit in the 60% or so of restaurants that have banned smoking on their own?

    I would also take issue with your 5% estimate but would be willing to examine your source. Please cite after clarifying the above question.

    Thank you.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    • Michael, I saw the 5% figure some time ago and if I can find the source I’ll let you have it. My point was that for most of the individuals who have asthma secondhand smoke is a trigger for an asthma attack and they therefore typically try not to expose themselves to secondhand smoke. These people are certainly not neurotic, as you imply, and that’s a charge you should not even hint at. I conclude from the discussion so far that there is unlikely to be agreement between us so I’m not sure it makes sense to continue: each of us has our minds made up on this issue.

  8. Mogasp, yes, I will appreciate the 5% figure source. I strongly disagree however with the following by you: “most of the individuals who have asthma secondhand smoke is a trigger for an asthma attack” and would like to ask for your source on that as well – original study, not a fact sheet from an advocacy group please. I knew a good number of individuals with asthma while growing up in the 1960s/70s. Only one of them had tobacco smoke as a trigger.

    And I did not claim that those experiencing asthma attacks were neurotic. If you’ve read Brains you’ll have seen that I carefully separate the “Truly Affected” from “The Neurotic.” You had claimed that smoke outdoors because of bans was not a problem. So I offered you three choices in relation to that, one of which was that the people claiming “clouds of smoke” outside now that there are bans were simply neurotic. If you feel their claims are real, then how does that fit with your statement that it’s a dystopia?

    And realize also the importance of separating the Truly Affected and the Neurotic from a third category: those whose symptoms have been created by a liflong barrage of emotional input that has created real physical reactions upon their encountering smoke or believing that they are encountering it. While I have nothing to offer other than historical memory and personal opinion on this point, I believe that the suffering from such “created” reactions at this point in history probably are outweighs the suffering from the “real” physical reactions. Remember: to someone suffering a psychosomatic effect, the effect IS reality… and it’s a reality that’s been created for many by the actions of antismoking advocates.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  9. Why is it that every time smoking bans are discussed, the asthmatics come out of the woodwork.
    Does the world revolve around the athmatics.
    I have a number of friends who are asthmatics and they smoke too.
    Not one of them ever complained about smoking or second-hand smoke

  10. Mogasp,

    Far more asthmatics are affected by pet dander, using your rational all pet stores should be required to remove the pets. If one has a condition as sad as it is the burdon is on them to avoid triggers.

    Many people are allergic to peanuts, should we ban Chinese cuisine because of that fact? Exactly how far do we carry this to accommodate those with health issues.

  11. mogasp I also don’t buy that 5% figure. I personally know several asthmatics who do not have an adverse reaction. Some of them actually smoke. But let’s take your number at face value. Does it make economic sense to kick out 20% of the people to accommodate 5%.

    • This is a health issue, and for smoke-sensitive asthmatics (not the ones you evidently know) and similarly impaired individuals, a matter of also complying with federal law [the ADA and Rehabilitation Act] and accommodating them in places open to the public. That includes ALL places.
      You are not “kicking out smokers!” They still have access: they just can’t engage in an activity putting others’ health at risk.

  12. mogasp “This is a health issue, and for smoke-sensitive asthmatics (not the ones you evidently know) and similarly impaired individuals, a matter of also complying with federal law [the ADA and Rehabilitation Act] and accommodating ”

    Both of those laws cover access, they don’t require business accommodate every illness known to man. That would require every restaurant to eliminate everything that anyone could be allergic too, banning bowling because a quadriplegic can’t participate. pets in pet stores. etc etc etc. In a free society some things are a matter of personal responsibility.

    • The ADA allows for prohibiting smoking to provide access for a breathing-disabled person. Your argument, of trying to expand this to every conceivable situation, is an attempt to reduce a valid law which helps many classes of disabled individuals, to the absurd. It’s your argument that is absurd.

  13. A snall amount of tobacco in a decently ventilated venue is a statistically insignificant health risk

    http://www.tobaccosmokersofcanada.ca

    • I’m going to put any faith in Tobacco Smokers of Canada? That would be like the tobacco industry to tell the truth about smoking and secondhand smoke.
      Actually, they HAVE started to! As a result of successful lawsuits the tobacco industry is beginning to come clean. Visit Philip Morris Cos. web site here to find out:
      http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Secondhand_Smoke/default.aspx

      Quote: “Public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes disease, including lung cancer and heart disease, in non-smoking adults, as well as causes conditions in children such as asthma, respiratory infections, cough, wheeze, otitis media (middle ear infection) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In addition, public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke can exacerbate adult asthma and cause eye, throat and nasal irritation.”

  14. mogasp a yes they start out with Public health officials have concluded not we have concluded. And because of the master settlement they can’t say much else. I am still waiting for other causes of diseases that have been proven with equally low relative risks. What is so magical about ETS that it doesn’t require the same level of proof as other possible causes of disease?

    Public health officials have concluded .

    Many respected epidemiologists have published erroneous results in the past and say it is so easy to be fooled that it is almost impossible to believe less-than-stunning results.

    Sir Richard Doll of Oxford University, who once co-authored a study erroneously suggesting that women who took the anti-hypertension medication reserpine had up to a fourfold increase in their risk of breast cancer, suggests that no single epidemiologic study is persuasive by itself unless the lower limit of its 95% confidence level falls above a threefold increased risk.

    Other researchers, such as Harvard’s Trichopoulos, opt for a fourfold risk increase as the lower limit.

    Trichopoulos’s ill-fated paper on coffee consumption and pancreatic cancer had reported a 2.5-fold increased risk.

    “As a general rule of thumb,” says Angell of the New England Journal, “we are looking for a relative risk of three or more [before accepting a paper for publication!, particularly if it is biologically implausible or if it’s a brand-new finding.” Robert Temple, director of drug evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration, puts it bluntly: “My basic rule is if the relative risk isn’t at least three or four, forget it.” But as John Bailar, an epidemiologist at McGill University and former statistical consultant for the NEJM, points out, there is no reliable way of identifying the dividing line.

    “If you see a 10-fold relative risk and it’s replicated and it’s a good study with biological backup, like we have with cigarettes and lung cancer, you can draw a strong inference,” he says.

    “If it’s a 1.5 relative risk, and it’s only one study and even a very good one, you scratch your chin and say maybe.” Some epidemiologists say that an association with an increased risk of tens of percent might be believed if it shows up consistently in many different studies.

    That’s the rationale for meta-analysis — a technique for combining many ambiguous studies to see whether they tend in the same direction (Science, 3 August 1990, p. 476).

    But when Science asked epidemiologists to identify weak associations that are now considered convincing because they show up repeatedly, opinions were divided — consistently.
    http://www.nasw.org/awards/1996/96Taubesarticle.htm

  15. Mogasp said “The ADA allows for prohibiting smoking to provide access for a breathing-disabled person. Your argument, of trying to expand this to every conceivable situation, is an attempt to reduce a valid law which helps many classes of disabled individuals, to the absurd. ”

    Funny I did a through search of of the ADA’s site for both asthma and smoking bans. http://www.ada.gov/srchada.htm and found nothing that backs you up under either asthma or smoking bans. I did however find a women who complained about no wheelchair access to the non smoking section. It is you sir that is trying to solicit sympathy for a tiny minority affected to further your cause. My examples are no more ludicrous then yours.

    • You searched on the wrong key word. The general class is “breathing disability” but I haven’t tried searching on that on-line and I don’t have time to pull the paperwork of two ADA complaints that Missouri GASP filed on behalf of covered individuals.
      I can tell you that the complaints we filed did lead to smoking being restricted in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City (although not completely removed, as we requested). Likewise smoking was eliminated throughout Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, but they were still allowed to install smoking rooms over our objections.

  16. Mogasp, I would also add if that were indeed the ADA policy there would be no need for local or state smoking bans as it would be federal law, wouldn’t it?

    • I and others have been making that case to federal agencies for well over a decade but whether it’s because we’re talking about smoking, which pits us against the tobacco industry, or whether it’s ignorance on the part of federal officials, or both, we’ve had a hard time obtaining a positive decision. But we haven’t given up!

  17. Three reasons for smoking ban:

    1. Quarantine/isolate the smoker

    2. De-normalize smoking.

    3.Big Pharm to sell their nicotine products

    Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is caught in the cross-fire.

    http://smokersclubinc.com
    http://www.tobaccosmokersofcanada.ca
    http://www.davehitt.com

    • This is the reason:
      Provide smoke-free access to public places and smoke-free workplaces so that everyone is protected from secondhand smoke exposure.

  18. Smoke from a handful of crushed leaves and some paper that is mixed with the air of a decently ventilated venue is harmful to your health?
    If anybody believes that, then I have some ocean-front property in Ohio I would like to sell them.

    • Could your membership in the smokersclubinc.com have anything to do with your ability to think rationally on this subject, I wonder?

    • Laprade tries to belittle the harm secondhand smoke does by describing it as being “from a handful of crushed leaves and some paper that is mixed with the air of a decently ventilated venue.” Asbestos dust could be described similarly. Should we ignore the risk to health from that source too? Have you read the U.S. Surgeon General’s Reports on secondhand smoke with the aim of being educated on the subject?

  19. mogasp said, “I can tell you that the complaints we filed did lead to smoking being restricted in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City (although not completely removed, as we requested). Likewise smoking was eliminated throughout Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, but they were still allowed to install smoking rooms over our objections.”

    Which goes to prove your ulterior motives. You don’t want to avoid second hand smoke. If that were the case you would have not problems with smoking areas which you could avoid. Your ulterior motive is to deny smokers the ability to smoke anywhere.

    Mogasp said ” mogasp // August 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Reply

    This is the reason:
    Provide smoke-free access to public places and smoke-free workplaces so that everyone is protected from secondhand smoke exposure.”

    Whether they want it or not!

    • Marshall wrote “… so that everyone is protected from secondhand smoke exposure.” Whether they want it or not!
      This is such an inane remark it doesn’t even deserve a response.
      I suppose there are people who oppose any and every public health measure on the grounds it’s taking away some presumed right, e.g. the right to drink infected water from the tap, or in this case, the right to breathe indoor air polluted by tobacco smoke.
      I presume you think we shouldn’t try to reduce the exposure of children to lead paint or to abate asbestos dust. That should be a choice.

  20. There has never been a single study showing that exposure to the low levels
    of smoke found in bars and restaurants with decent modern ventilation and
    filtration systems kills or harms anyone.

    As to the annoyance of smoking, a compromise between smokers and non-smokers
    can be reached, through setting a quality standard and the use of modern
    ventilation technology.

    Air ventilation can easily create a comfortable environment that removes not
    just passive smoke, but also and especially the potentially serious
    contaminants that are independent from smoking.

  21. In my area of Chicago, there are eight, maybe more, bars that ignore the ban within two miles of my house. In over a year and a half, there have been NO complaints. There ARE people who don’t want to be protected. Al Capone is laughing in his grave.

  22. Mogasp said “I suppose there are people who oppose any and every public health measure on the grounds it’s taking away some presumed right, e.g. the right to drink infected water from the tap, or in this case, the right to breathe indoor air polluted by tobacco smoke.
    I presume you think we shouldn’t try to reduce the exposure of children to lead paint or to abate asbestos dust. That should be a choice.”

    Is there a choice as to where the tap water comes from. Is the hazard visible giving one the choice? Can you see the asbestos in the ceiling tiles or the air? can you see the lead in the paint? Is there any demand at all for any of these environments? Can you show me any demand at all for any of these things much less 20% of the population.

    Not to mention protecting people from unseen hazards is exactly the role of government. Not to protect them minor potential hazards that you can see and smell and could easily avoid. Under or uncooked meat is a potential hazard and yet all the restaurants are required to do is warn you of this hazard. Alcohol is a known carcinogen and they aren’t even required to warn you of this fact. Life is full of risks and in a free society it is a matter of personal freedom and personal responsibility to choose what risk one is willing to take. All of your examples there is no choice as the hazard cannot be seen or smelled.

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