P-D 10/30/09: “St. Louis County smoking ban campaign energizes in last weekend”

This is the latest review of where the two campaigns, pro-smoking and pro-smokefree air, stand just days before the Prop N vote on November 3. The pro-smoking crowd has evidently poured more money in just recently and it’s now a much more even contest from the financial standpoint. Getting good information out to supporters to energize them to get to the polls will be critical.

Not mentioned below is that Missouri GASP is also formally endorsing Prop N.

10.30.2009 6:33 pm
St. Louis County smoking ban campaign energizes in last weekend
By Margaret Gillerman

With the election four days away, energized supporters and opponents of the Proposition N smoking ban have stepped up their campaigns and picked up more money – with the anti-ban committee thus far outraising supporters but the pro-ban committee picking up endorsements.

And their tactics differ – with supporters relying on electronics, operating a get-out-the-vote telephone and email campaigns , and opponents counting on radio and newspaper advertisements. Both are using rallies to try to attract attention.

Proposition N would ban smoking in most indoor public places. Siginificant exemptions include casino gaming floors, smoking lounges at Lambert Field and small bars.

Opponents of the smoking ban debuted a new radio ad today on KMOX, says Tom Sullivan, spokesperson for the Citizens Against Proposition N. Ads against the ban will continue through Tuesday on KEZK and KSIV.

The ads by Citizens against Proposition N so far have been paid for by Discount Smoke Shops and activist Bill Hannegan. Their latest contributions are $16,533 from the tobacco shop chain and $3,000 from Hannegan. The committee includes mainly businesses selling tobacco and owners of small bars and restaurants that now allow smoking.

Charles Gatton, chair of the County Citizens for Cleaner Air, said today that he expected that ExpressScripts to make a significant contribution to supporters of a ban. So far, the largest contribution to that committee has been $10,000 from BJC Healthcare.

With money in its pockets, the anti-ban group sent out a 240,000-piece mailing to voters this week and took out full-color ¾ page ads in all four Call newspapers, covering a large part of South County, Sullivan said. Another ad appeared in the St. Louis American.

In the anti-ban commercial on KMOX, restaurateur Harry Belli laments that he lost his Ballwin business, Harry’s West, and 40 employees lost their jobs after the smoking ban was enacted in that city.

“Proposition N would cause the same thing to happen all over the county,” Belli says on the ad. “Take it from me. Proposition N will cost St. Louis County thousands of jobs and millions of tax dollars just when we need them the most.”

The issue remains contentious in Ballwin. Some other businesses, such as Bones French Quarter Cafe, are now making money.

Gatton, a former Ballwin alderman, said, “The fact is, the restaurant business is still healthy in Ballwin. Over the years since the ordinance took effect, it appears to have dropped about 4 percent, in line with the gradual downward trend the city had been experiencing before.

“Meanwhile, Manchester, a neighboring city without a clean air ordinance, dropped eight percent during the same time period. Several restaurants have opened in Ballwin since the Clean Air Ordinance took effect – Candicci’s, Senor Pique, Lone Wolf Coffee Company, and Break an Egg, just to name a few. “

The other anti-ban radio ad, narrated by Rev. Harold Hendrick, airs on a Christian radio station on the Bott Radio Network. Hendrick, an opponent of casinos and gambling, says in his ad that the ban “just is not fair…(and) would hurt small businesses while favoring casinos.” Under the proposed ban, casino gaming floors are exempted from the ban.

The Greater St. Louis Bowling Proprietors Association and Carolyn Haupt, owner of Hazelwood Bowl, will host a voter rally at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hazelwood Bowl. Speakers include Fred Teutenberg, formerly of Dirt Cheap stores and now owner of Fred’s Cheapo Depot, State Senate candidate Jack Jackson, and State Representative candidate Keith Schildroth.

Gatton, the head of the committee in favor of Proposition N, said that supporters of the smoking ban would conduct a telephone campaign urging people to vote Yes on N but planned no commercials or ads. Supporters of a ban also are sending emails to their friends and colleagues on the importance of healthy clean air and the dangers of second-hand smoke and asking them to vote yes to the ban. A rally was held by doctors and medical students Thursday to support the proposed county ban.

Gatton said that people recognize the smoking ban is for the public health and “is good for the citizens, for workers, businesses and families.” The ban, he said, would “improve the health and well-being of our region for our children and their children.”

More than 250 students, professors, doctors and staff attended the rally Thursday organized by St. Louis University Medical Students for a Smoke-Free St. Louis. If the county ban passes, a ban already approved by St. Louis Aldermen will go into effect.

In addition to the endorsement of BJC Heathcare, Gatton said that some of Proposition N ’s endorsements are the St. Louis County Municipal League, the Asthma Consortium , the Asthma & Allergy Foundation and The March of Dimes.

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