Monthly Archives: October 2009

Prop N debate on Mark Reardon Show, 10/26/09

The Mark Reardon Show on KMOX Radio hosted a pro and con debate on the upcoming St. Louis County Prop N ballot inititiative, scheduled for November 3rd. This is a crucial vote to decide if the St. Louis region moves forward decisively on the smoke-free air issue. The effort in favor is being led by County Citizens for Cleaner Air, a grassroots group made up of a spectrum of mostly individuals who support smoke-free air in the region.

Today, on the Mark Reardon Show, which broadcast live from 2:10 pm to a little before 3:00 pm, Chris Sommers and I squared off against Bill Hannegan and Gary Voss.

Chris is proprietor of the newly opened Pi Pizzeria on Manchester Road, just 1/2 west of S. Lindbergh. Bill Hannegan maintains the blog “KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE!”, and Gary Voss is the Executive Director of the Bowling Proprietor’s Association of St. Louis.

You can listen to the entire broadcast on your computer by clicking the following live link:
http://podcast.kmox.com/kmox2/2025839.mp3

Some photos taken during a break are pasted below:

Reardon_0502

Mike Reardon KMOX Radio Show host preparing to go on-air

Pion & Sommers at Mike Reardon Show, KMOX

Martin Pion, MOGASP President, and Chris Sommers, Pi Restaurant (on right)


Hannegan_&_Voss_0503

Bill Hannegan, KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE, & Gary Voss, Bowling Proprietors Assn. of St. Louis (R)

P-D Letters supporting Prop N: 10/23/09 & 10/25/09

Three Letters to the Editor supporting Proposition N, on the St. Louis County November 3rd ballot, have been published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over the last three days. Mine and one from Rusti Levin appeared in the Sunday edition today and the other was from Dr. Anthony Masi on Friday. They are reproduced below:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Letters from our readers

10/25/2009
On-line at http://tinyurl.com/ykmdlad

Ignore false prophets

Proposition N, on the St. Louis County ballot Nov. 3, will take secondhand smoke out of most indoor private workplaces.

It is opposed by pro-smoking interests and some businesses that will argue that this is not a health issue but a “property rights” issue. Ignore these false prophets.

Missouri GASP has been promoting smoke-free air for 25 years and found long ago that the tobacco lobby exerts overwhelming influence at the state level. Real progress comes locally, as evidenced by recent enactment of Clayton’s strong ordinance. Proposition N offers a chance to expand that throughout St. Louis County.

The ordinance has loopholes, such as exempting small bars and casino gaming floors. Missouri GASP and others worked to remove them, and we will continue that effort if this passes.

Still, this ordinance is worthwhile. Every restaurant (with or without a bar) will be smoke-free, whereas almost all existing local ordinances exempt them.

This is the year St. Louis County, the largest in Missouri, can take secondhand smoke out of many people’s lives. You can help make it happen by supporting Proposition N.

Martin Pion — Ferguson

Join the 21st century

Finally! On Nov. 3, we have an opportunity to prohibit smoking in public places where people dine. It will be up to the people to vote yes on Proposition N so that St. Louis County can join the 21st century and become a more progressive and healthier place to live and visit.

Proposition N is a pure grass-roots movement with little money available to promote it. We are up against Big Tobacco, which has big bucks to fight dirty. It is a David vs. Goliath issue.

The election is less than two weeks away. It is very important to the whole region.

Rusti Levin — University City

10/23/2009
On-line at http://tinyurl.com/yf4u94p

Voters have a choice on an important public health issue

As a lung physician, I knew the scientific evidence was mounting against the dangers of secondhand smoke. I was not completely surprised when I read the recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Institutes of Medicine report demonstrating that smoking bans reduced the rate of heart attacks. 

I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I read on Oct. 15 that the conservative, pro-business Wall Street Journal quoted from the study: “The repeated finding of decreased heart attack rates overall after bans were implemented conclusively demonstrates that smoke-free policies help protect people from the cardiovascular effects of tobacco smoke.”

I am delighted that the business world now is accepting what the health field has know for years: that secondhand smoke is a danger to the health of others both in workplaces and public places. The surgeon general warned us of this danger in his landmark report in 2006.
 
The CDC and National Institutes of Medicine now are reinforcing the surgeon general’s report. Please use your free choice to protect your health and the health of our communities by voting yes on Nov. 3 for Proposition N, which would restrict smoking in public places.



Dr. Anthony Masi — Kirkwood

Post-Dispatch 10/24/09: “Vote Yes on Proposition N.”

“Proposition N is less comprehensive than clean air laws in Illinois or Kansas City, which means it’s not as strong as it should be. But it’s much better than the current state of affairs.”

That was a conclusion of the editorial board in its endorsement of Prop. N. Missouri GASP agrees.

After interviewing both proponents and opponents of Prop. N, the smoke-free air ordinance on the November 3rd St. Louis County ballot, the Post-Dispatch editorial board came down on the side of health.

That was really no surprise, and is consistent with their editorial position on the subject of secondhand smoke. What would have been surprising is if they’d come out against it, for example by buying the argument that it was too weak to support, or it was causing overwhelming economic harm out of all proportion to the public good. But those arguments simply don’t stand up.

With the full Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis just overwhelmingly approving their own smoke-free air ordinance, conditional on Prop. N succeeding at the polls, everything comes down to a strong positive vote on November 3.

Following the Post-Dispatch endorsement on-line are readers’ comments, with several from Bill Hannegan. The endorsement is reproduced below, followed by a long rebuttal I posted to Hannegan’s comments.

cd_ssc__smoke_2_opt-300x246Vote Yes on Proposition N.
By Editorial Board
10.23.2009 9:00 pm

About 60 percent of Americans – 175 million people – now live in communities that restrict smoking in public places.

On Nov. 3, voters in St. Louis County can add the county’s nearly 1 million residents to the list by voting for Proposition N. That would protect the right of nonsmokers to breathe clean air in enclosed public spaces, including restaurants and bars.

Approval would trigger a similar ban in the city of St. Louis. The city’s Board of Aldermen approved the ordinance Friday, contingent on passage of the county ban.

The smoking restrictions could cause some economic hardship and dislocation. But regardless of what opponents may argue, there is indisputable scientific evidence that secondhand tobacco smoke is a serious public health threat.

Most recently, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Science, reported Oct. 15 that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart attack. Clean indoor air laws significantly reduce that risk, the Institute found.

The report confirms what the U.S. surgeon general and scores of peer-reviewed studies have concluded: Clean indoor air laws reduce the incidence of heart disease and heart attacks.

That’s the overwhelming reason to Vote Yes on Proposition N.

People who own smoke shops, some bowling alleys and restaurants are opposing Proposition N. It’s only natural that small-business owners would be concerned about the potential economic impact. The tobacco industry has spent years – and millions of dollars – fanning those fears.

An association of bowling center owners worries, in particular, about the “double standard” inherent in the ordinance. Bowling alleys would have to restrict smoking in their establishments, but large casinos that are their competitors are exempted.

We agree. Just because big casinos have more political clout than bowling centers, they shouldn’t get a pass.

The good news for worried restaurant and bar owners is that scores of peer-reviewed economic analyses show clean indoor air laws have minimal adverse economic impact. That certainly has been the case in Ballwin and Arnold.

Some opponents say Proposition N would infringe on the rights of business owners, who should be able to decide whether smoking is allowed. Should we also allow them to serve tainted food from unsanitary kitchens or block fire exits or disable fire sprinklers?

Secondhand smoke is a public health threat, just like unsanitary restaurant kitchens or unsafe stores. For workers who spend their days and nights in smoke-filled bars and restaurants, the danger is magnified.

They include many young people working at their first jobs. Often, those workers aren’t offered health insurance and aren’t in an economic position to quit.

People shouldn’t be forced to risk their health just to earn a living.

Proposition N is less comprehensive than clean air laws in Illinois or Kansas City, which means it’s not as strong as it should be. But it’s much better than the current state of affairs.

More than 75 percent of St. Louis County residents are nonsmokers. Their health shouldn’t be held hostage to the minority’s tobacco addiction.

Bill Hannegan wrote: “Almost all the “scores of peer-reviewed economic analyses” mentioned have been conducted by public health people, peer-reviewed by other public health people, and published in medical and public health journals. Almost every study concerning the economic effects of smoking bans conducted by real economists and published in economics journals have found that smoking bans cause economic harm to bars and restaurants.”

I can’t speak to this subject, although I would assume the studies in peer-reviewed medical and public health journals would be rigorous, but I can speak from personal experience. The study I co-authored, titled “Airport smoking rooms don’t work,” which was finally accepted for publication in the BMJ peer-reviewed journal, Tobacco Control, went through at least 11 iterations of critique before being accepted and published in March 2004. Since I was working on this sporadically it took most of a year, as I recall. I submitted it to Tobacco Control not because I thought they would simply give me a pass on anything I submitted but because of their area of focus. I stand by the validity and accuracy of the data presented. It was objective and intended to be rebuttal-proof.

Bill Hannegan also wrote: “Federal Reserve economists have determined that smoking bans cut bar revenues in Columbia, Missouri 11 percent and Illinois casino revenues over 20 percent. Why shouldn’t St. Louis County businesses worry?”

These were not peer-reviewed studies appearing in journals. However, on the subject of loss of business due to smoke-free air laws, the studies seems to give mixed results, although many indicate either no effect or a positive effect. Personally, I would guess that some businesses would lose business, e.g. standalone bars might, especially initially, whereas others might actually gain, e.g. restaurants. That’s been the overall result seen in the City of Ballwin since it implemented a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance. Ballwin has actually done better since, economically, than its immediate neighboring communities.

However, the economic arguments against such laws invariably ignore the hidden costs resulting from the ill-health caused by exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS), e.g. increased healthcare costs that we all bear, and the negative impact on people’s curtailed lives which is unquantifiable. Plus, as I’ve noted repeatedly, these arguments would NEVER be advanced if we were dealing with any other major health threat like swine flu, or environmental issues like asbestos or lead paint mitigation.

We really don’t need the new Institute of Medicine (IOM) study referenced by Bill Hannegan to make the case against SHS. We have more than enough evidence for its harmful effects on exposed healthy nonsmokers in the various U.S. Surgeon General’s reports on SHS, on-line at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/index.html, starting with the first, published in December, 1986: “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General.”

Martin Pion, President, Missouri GASP
https://mogasp.wordpress.com

— Martin Pion
2:50 pm October 24th, 2009

Post-Dispatch 10/23/09: “City aldermen endorse smoking ban — now look to county voters”

Unexpectedly good news from the City of St. Louis! It appeared even quite recently that Ald. Lyda Krewson’s efforts at passage of a smoke-free air bill, even with weakening amendments, was being stymied.

On October 7, Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman wrote on his political blog a story titled “Smoking ban proposal, as amended, trudges along at City Hall” after Krewson’s bill was finally voted out of the Board of Aldermen’s Health Committee. Yet earlier today, it came before the full Board of Aldermen and received a lopsided vote of 20 to 7.

It won’t go into effect unless St. Louis County’s ordinance, which is on the November 3rd ballot, is also approved by a majority of county voters, which makes that vote even more crucial for both proponents and opponents of smoke-free air. Metro St. Louis is poised to take a major step forward on this issue. It remains to be seen if health will prevail.

10.23.2009 3:01 pm
City aldermen endorse smoking ban — now look to county voters
By Jake Wagman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — After a marathon session of debates and amendments, city aldermen approved a bill Friday banning smoking in most bars and restaurants on Friday.
Now they’ll have to wait for the county to decide if it goes into effect.

The bill, approved by a sizable majority, would ban indoor smoking — with several key exceptions — provided St. Louis County approves a similar prohibition.

If nothing else, the board’s action increases the stakes at next month’s election, where voters in St. Louis County will now, in effect, decide the smoking ban issue for much of the region.

The plan passed at City Hall, like the county version, exempts casino floors, some hotel rooms, private clubs and tobacco stores.

But, in the city, small bars — defined as establishments with 2,000 square feet or less of service space where food sales are “incidental” to alcohol consumption — would be allowed to wait five years before having to comply with the ban.

The provision was introduced to protect neighborhood taverns already struggling in a tough economic climate. The county plan has a provision exempting “drinking establishments” — where equals 25 percent or less of total sales — from following the ban at all.

For most city businesses, the ban would go into effect Jan. 1, 2011, but only if voters in St. Louis County approve a similar measure on Nov. 3.

Supporters of the city’s ban, such as the mayor and others, were concerned that acting alone would put St. Louis businesses at risk of losing customers across the city limits.

It was also the proposal that backers thought had the best chance of passing, even if some criticized it as toothless and lacking punch.

“It’s just not pure enough to win the support of many groups,” said sponsor Alderman Lyda Krewson said. “But I consider this to be a pragmatic bill. This bill is not a bill for the extremists on either side.”

The local chapter of the American Cancer Society issued a statement immediately after the decision saying they were “extremely disappointed” by the “watered down smoke free law.”

“Partial measures work for politicians but not for health,” the statement said. “In essence, we’re telling some workers they warrant legislative protection, while telling others they don’t.”

The board approved the bill by a 20-7 margin. Before sending it to the mayor’s desk for final approval, aldermen must vote one more time on the proposal. It’s unlikely, though, that any aldermen — let alone enough to prevent final passage — would change their votes. Amending the bill in the latter stages is also difficult.

Alderman opposing the bill included Benton Park Alderman Ken Ortmann, who owns a tavern in Soulard, and Bevo Mill Alderman Stephen Gregali, who at one point during the four-hour meeting asked that his ward be excluded from the ban.

This is a “chicken you know what kind of bill,” Gregali said, who protested the exemptions.

“If we’re going to ban smoking, let’s do it,” Gregali said. “If the bars aren’t going to go out of business, either will the casinos.”

Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett introduced a measure that would have banned smoking on casino floors, but it was soundly defeated.

“Whether it’s a small business café or multi-million dollar casino, no business should be exempt from ensuring that our city residents are able to breathe clean air in the workplace.” Triplett said in a statement after the vote.

St. Louis follows Kansas City, Clayton and Columbia, Mo. in passing smoke-free legislation. Illinois already has a statewide ban, meaning that, if county voters embrace a ban, most of the region would have some level of restriction on indoor smoking.

Krewson said she hopes the vote will lead to smoke-free advocates in the city to campaign in favor of the county measure.

But, Krewson acknowledged, that goes both ways.

“People that are opposed to things are often more vocal,” Krewson said.

What’s in Prop N? The St. Louis County smoke-free air ordinance reviewed

I recently read a Kansas City Star columnist bashing the proposed Prop N, the countywide smoke-free air ordinance, which is on the St. Louis County November 3 ballot. I’ve written a Letter to the Editor in reply. You can read both the column and my reply below.

Voters will decide whether or not this important law will actually go into effect or not. It is being opposed by a group of of bar owners and others, almost all of whom don’t support smoke-free air. But the opposition also includes the voluntary health agencies, like the American Cancer Society. Like us, they wanted a stronger bill but unlike us, when they didn’t get it they decided to trash this bill as absurdly weak. I agree with some of their arguments against it – we made similar ones too when we were pushing for a stronger bill – but the fact is, this is still a good bill worth supporting. The voluntary health agencies should acknowledge that and not spread disinformation about it.

To rectify that I’ve posted below the actual bill approved by St. Louis County Council and signed by County Executive, Charley Dooley. You can verify for yourself if this is such a weak bill that it doesn’t deserve support.

Here’s the Kansas City Star column by Yael T. Abouhalkah, e-mail abouhalkah@kcstar.com:

Kansas City Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kansas City Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kansas City took about four years to finally pass a strong, effective smoke-free law. But St. Louis County — the biggest in Missouri with 1 million people — is still far, far behind us.
On Nov. 3, voters in the county will go to the polls to decide the fate of a proposed smoking ban. But it’s an absurdly weak one, because it would allow smoking in many bars plus parts of the airport.
In fact, groups that usually support smoke-free laws, such as the American Cancer Society, have said they oppose the county’s plan. The groups figure that passing a sham of a law would make it tougher to approve a stronger one in the future.
But County Executive Charlie Dooley refused requests to veto the proposed ordinance. Dooley, who said he supports a statewide ban, said he wanted to give voters a chance to back a law that would be better than the status quo.
The machinations in St. Louis County show — once again — how foolish it is to have cities pass piecemeal attempts to protect the health of millions of Missouri residents.
A statewide, wholesale smoke-free law that would prohibit smoking in all public places is needed.
The General Assembly show approve that kind of law in 2010, and end the time-consuming waste of energy on passing patchwork laws throughout the state.

And here’s my response, e-mailed 10/19/2009:

Mr. Yael T. Abouhalkah supports smoke-free air but echoes the American Cancer Society’s unfair criticisms in his column “St. Louis County’s pathetic anti-smoking plan” (Oct. 12, 2009). He describes Proposition N on the Nov. 3 St. Louis County ballot as “absurdly weak.” That is simply untrue.
Missouri GASP, which has been promoting smoke-free air for 25 years, has focused on local smoke-free air ordinances after concluding that the tobacco lobby exerts overwhelming influence at the state level. Others now share our view and that has finally borne fruit in metro St. Louis.
Missouri GASP worked hard to eliminate the exemptions from the St. Louis County bill, especially three of them: small bars, casino gaming floors, and Lambert Airport’s smoking rooms. We weren’t successful, but the bill still covers all public and the overwhelming majority of private workplaces, as can be verified by checking the bill on-line at http://tinyurl.com/yg9o23h.
For example, every restaurant, with or without a bar, will be smoke-free, whereas almost all existing local ordinances exempt them.
This will be a major catalyst for action on this issue, substantially improving public health and welfare. We strongly support it.

Here’s further background:

A stronger bill that the voluntary health agencies and Missouri GASP supported, but which failed on a 3:4 vote, still contained these seven exemptions:

1. Private residences
2. Private clubs
3. Performers on stage in theatrical productions
4. Private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes where everyone agrees to allow smoking in them
5. Tobacconists
6. Up to 20% of designated hotel/motel guest rooms
7. Cigar bars already in operation

The three additional exemptions in the bill on the ballot as Prop. N are:

8. Casino gaming areas
9. Drinking establishments already in operation where drinking comprises 75% of revenue
10. Lambert Airport designated smoking rooms.

Note that even the current 100% model ordinance of Americans for Nonsmokers Rights exempts private residences and 20% of hotel/motel guest rooms.

Please click the link http://tinyurl.com/yg9o23h to view/download the ordinance if you have difficulty reading the pages copied below. The exemptions are listed in Section 605.060.

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 1

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 1


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 2

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 2


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 3

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 3


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 4

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 4


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 5

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 5


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 6

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 6


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 7

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 7


Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 8

Prop. N: St. Louis County Bill#228 page 8

Post-Dispatch 10/14/2009: “Push to derail smoking ban begins”

On Tuesday, September 29th, a new citizen’s group met to support Proposition N, the November 3rd St. Louis County ballot initiative for smoke-free air in most private workplaces. Leading the group is former Ballwin alderman, Charles “Charley” Gatton, and co-chair Ballwin Alderman Jane Suozzi.

Co-chairs Ald. Jane Suozzi & Charley Gatton at kickoff meeting

Co-chairs Ald. Jane Suozzi & Charley Gatton at kickoff meeting of County Citizens for Cleaner Air


Both the above are best known for the City of Ballwin’s comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance which was originally sponsored by Charley Gatton. Ballwin’s ordinance is presently the strongest in the St. Louis metro area. (See Sec. 17-65. Ballwin Clean Air Act and search on title.)

Post-Dispatch Reporter Phil Sutin posted a story to the Political Fix blog on October 5 titled:

Campaign committees form for both sides in St. Louis County smoking ban vote.

The story briefly described the aims of Citizens for a Smoke-Free County (since renamed County Citizens for Cleaner Air) and Citizens Against Proposition N, whose spokesperson is Tom Sullivan.

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan

Today (Wednesday, October 14, 2009) Citizens Against Proposition N held a news conference reported in both the Riverfront Times blog and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on-line.

The RFT story and photo by reporter Chad Garrison was published under the headline:

Smoking Ban Opponents Organize; Remind Public to Vote No on Prop. N

Following are excerpts from his report:

Citizen's Against Prop. N: Rev. Harold Hendrick, Fred Teutenberg, Scott Simon, Jon Rand, Bill Hannegan

Citizen's Against Prop. N: Rev. Harold Hendrick, Fred Teutenberg, Scott Simon, Jon Rand, Bill Hannegan

A somewhat unlikely group of bar owners, bowling advocates, tobacco salesman and — yes — a Christian radio host, gathered today in University City to announce their opposition to a smoking ban proposal for St. Louis County.

Perhaps the best-known smoker in all of St. Louis — Fred Teutenberg — was also on hand to argue against the ban. The former pitchman for Dirt Cheap Cigarettes & Beer, Teutenberg recently parted ways from his old employer to start his own low-cost tobacco store: Fred’s Cheapo Depot.

​”Let the marketplace decide the matter, not the government,” said Tuetenberg in a speech punctuated by what seemed to be a smoker’s hack.

The Rev. Harold Hendrick, director of public affairs for Christian broadcaster Bott Radio Network, said he opposes the ban because of its exemption of casinos. “Here again we have the county caving in to casinos, just so it can go to them hat in hand and make sure it’s getting its cut.”

Bill Hannegan, founder of Keep St. Louis Free, meanwhile cited statistics suggesting that county bars and restaurants could expect to lose revenue if a ban were enacted. Hannegan also warned that he and others would sue the county should the measure be voted into law.

This summer the Missouri Supreme court rejected a lawsuit challenging Kansas City’s smoking ban. Hannegan says a lawsuit against St. Louis County would not challenge the ban, per se, but the constitutionality of excluding some businesses over others.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reporter Margaret Gillerman posted a report on-line (see below) which garnered its first comment from chad peleck at 3:49PM CST asking: No quote by Hannegan?

By 9:30 pm there were 68 comments with NONE, repeat NONE from Bill Hannegan. Perhaps he was forestalled by this early comment, posted by mpkunz at 4:11PM CST, October 14, 2009:

To save people time, I can give you a head’s up on what others will post. Hannegan will start to quote a bunch of studies that purport to show that smoking bans hurt the economy and that there is no real proof that second-hand smoke harmful (raise your eyebrows here and all say, “insane”). Others will say it infringes on their civil rights. People will start calling each other names (like “insane”…. 🙂 ) and next month we will get to put this to bed and move into a smoke-free 21st century, like most of the rest of America.

Here’s the full on-line Post-Dispatch story:

Push to derail smoking ban begins
By Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
10/14/2009

A coalition of merchants and organizations in St. Louis County announced its opposition today to Proposition N, which would ban smoking in most public places throughout the county.

More than a half dozen representatives and owners of bars, restaurants, tobacco shops, bowling alleys and others said they had formed a campaign committee and planned to spend money to fight the proposed ban on the Nov. 3 ballot. The “Citizens Against Proposition N” committee contends that a smoking ban would have a negative impact on county businesses and result in a loss of freedom for owners and smokers.

Jon Rand, president of Discount Smoke Shops, said that businesses are closing already because of the poor economy. He said that as long as neighboring counties do not have smoking bans, St. Louis County businesses could be hurt by a ban and that tax revenue and jobs would decline.

“Why would you want to drive business from one county to another – put jobs in jeopardy – during a time like this?” Rand said at a news conference called by the ban’s organized opponents.

The ban would prohibit smoking in indoor public areas countywide except on casino floors, in smoking lounges at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and in bars that have incomes from food at 25 percent or less of gross income. If voters approve, the ban would take effect on Jan. 2, 2011.

Supporters of Proposition N have formed their own committee, County Citizens for Cleaner Air. That group says that a smoking ban in public places is essential for public health and would save lives. It would be good for citizens, for workers, businesses and families, they say.

Advocates of a ban say also that the St. Louis area and Missouri lag far behind most of the rest of the country in adopting bans. Only Clayton, Ballwin and Arnold have adopted bans and a ban is on the ballot in Kirkwood in November. Other Missouri cities with bans include Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield. Illinois has a statewide ban.

At the news conference today called by local ban opponents, Fred Teutenberg. president of Fred’s Cheapo Depot and formerly with Dirt Cheap, predicted St. Louis County businesses and tax dollars would head to St. Charles and Jefferson counties if voters approved the ban.

“Each individual bar and restaurant owner should be able to make their own decision based on what will please their customers,” he said.

Gerard Ezvan, owner of Jon’s Pipe Shop in Clayton and a native of France who became an American citizen, said: “A smoking ban would diminish personal freedom. It would also hurt the business I have spent many years building up.”

Rev. Harold Hendrick of the Bott Radio Network denounced what he said was an “unfair and discriminatory exemption” to the ban to benefit casino gambling floors. He said St. Louis County government was “coddling casinos.”

“Once again, government has caved in to predatory casinos,” he said.

“Someday Tobacco May Be Like Lead Paint”

The letter reproduced below was published in the September 24, 2009, issue of the Webster-Kirkwood Times. It was clipped from the newspaper and mailed to me by Peggy, a friend of my wife’s and Kirkwood resident who also supports smoke-free air. I’m grateful to her because I don’t routinely check out these letters on-line.

As Peggy remarked, this letter was a standout from the normal ho-hum variety.

The writer talks about banning smoking. That’s something opponents of smoke-free air throw out sometimes too, but that’s designed to divert the argument rather than really promote health and welfare; there’s no way tobacco products will be made illegal in the U.S. and we, for one, are not advocating it.

Missouri GASP’s focus is on smoke-free air in public places and the private workplace, with the eventual goal of smoking being done “only between consenting adults in private.” That would also mean no smoking around children in the home or in cars. It would also mean no smoking in outdoor public places. Eventually that may happen, but for now it’s hard enough getting indoor places smoke-free.

Letters from former smokers like James Mills of Kirkwood help. Here’s his letter:

Someday Tobacco May Be Like Lead Paint

In a comedy skit by Bob Newhart, he pretends he is getting a new idea from Sir Walter Raleigh in the colonies: “What’s that Wallie, you say you take leaves, roll them up, stick them in your mouth…then you light them on fire…OK, then what? You say you then breathe the smoke into your lungs. Well, I don’t think that is going to be a good idea, Wallie!”

Well, that is what countless many do though.

I smoked and ended up with throat cancer. The cure was neck disection and radiation which wiped out my taste buds and saliva glands.

Interestingly, the federal government bans and regulates anything that is known to cause cancer, except cigarettes! What is sacred about tobacco that we aren’t protected from it? Oh, it is a profitable industry. I see and there is the ability to hide within the insistence of some sadly-addicted folks’ strong ideal about freedom (today’s easy banner to wave for anyone defending a bad habit). I find that the people who are talking “freedom…” well, that is usually all they are talking about. They never talk about consequences.

As for me, after sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, and seeing the tongues gone, the voice boxes missing, the jaws sawed off and the lugging of oxygen bottles, I am for – yes, dare I say – at least banning smoking where the public is entitled to go.

Smoking is a stupid habit, and I was once stupid. I wish tobacco had been banned. I would be better off today.

If you want to put leaves in your mouth, light them on fire and take the cancer-causing smoke into your mouth, throat and lungs, do it. But please don’t do it in my space.

Banning is a good idea, not a bad idea.

Maybe one day tobacco will have fallen into the category of things like asbestos and lead paint. Future generations will say “can you believe those folks actually wanted to smoke and the smokers actually fought to do it in spaces where the public went?”

James Mills
Kirkwood
September 24, 2009