Monthly Archives: November 2009

Parade poll: “Should Smoking Be Banned Outdoors?”

Missouri GASP’s three primary goals, as posted on this blog (see the link HOW TO SUPPORT MISSOURI GASP), are:

Smoke-free air for nonsmokers.
Smoke-free lives for children.
A society where smoking is done only between consenting adults in private.

The third goal is no different from equating smoking in public to being nude in public: not generally acceptable public behavior, and with far greater reason.

James Repace, a former senior EPA scientist in the Indoor Air Quality Division and now a leading international consultant on secondhand smoke, posted some time ago that secondhand smoke migrates considerable distances outdoors at levels sufficient to be of concern to sensitive nonsmokers.

Here’s the article and poll in today’s Parade Magazine

Reproduced from Parade Magazine, page 20, Nov. 29, 2009,

Should Smoking Be Banned Outdoors?

In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that any exposure to secondhand smoke increases an individual’s risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. As a result, 19 states have banned smoking in workplaces, bars, and restaurants. Now, some communities want to take the bans a step further, banning smoking in public parks and beaches—even in private homes.

Condominium owners in New York City and Dallas filed lawsuits recently to prevent smokers from lighting up in their own apartments, claiming that smoke seeps through shared walls and ceilings. New Jersey State Sen. Barbara Buono introduced a bill this month to ban smoking at outdoor parks and beaches. “People have a right to smoke,” Buono says, “but they shouldn’t have a right to impose on others the health risks caused by smoking.”

Should smoking be banned at public parks and beaches?

Results at 3:25 pm on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009:
Yes 56%
No 44%

One recent study found that heart attacks dropped by up to 26% within three years in communities with smoking bans, though the communities may have taken other measures to improve residents’ health as well. A report by the Institute of Medicine showed that smoking bans can decrease heart attacks by as much as 47%.

But as public support for the bans continues to grow, some people are questioning how far the government should go to protect nonsmokers. “The general public should have the right to decide what they’re going to do on private property,” says Gary Nolan, regional director of Citizens Freedom Alliance, a group that opposes smoking bans. He believes it’s reasonable for the government to ban smoking in government buildings but not at parks or privately owned businesses. Adds Nolan: “We’re giving away the right to self-determination.”

— Brooke Lea Foster

P-D 11/10/2009: “St. Charles, Dardenne Prairie mayors want countywide vote on smoking ban”

There are 25 reader comments to the following story, including several from Bill Hannegan, but the first says it all:

“It’ll be a long time coming at the state level. Most Clean Air Ordinances start at the local level and move up the ladder from there. St. Charles needs to come out of the dark ages like St. Louis County and City did. Work on it now, please!”

— Rather Be Diving
6:23 pm November 10th, 2009

St. Charles, Dardenne Prairie mayors want countywide vote on smoking ban
By Mark Schlinkmann
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
11.10.2009 5:28 pm

Mayors Patti York of St. Charles and Pam Fogarty of Dardenne Prairie want St. Charles County voters to decide whether smoking should be banned in restaurants and other public places across the county.

Mayor Patti York, St. Charles

Mayor Pam Fogarty, Dardenne Prairie

The two city leaders weighed in on the issue in separate interviews on their reaction to the successful push in last week’s election for a smoking ban in St. Louis County.

“I think it was the right way to do it, take it to the public,” York said. ”In just a matter of time, we’ll all be smoke-free. It will be one by one, watching the pins drop.”

Last year, when a St. Charles city panel on health issues made an unsuccessful proposal for a smoking ban limited to her city, York said she preferred that the issue instead be addressed on a statewide basis by the Legislature.

Now that St. Louis County has acted, York said, it makes sense for St. Charles County to vote as well.

To ensure that businesses in St. Charles County aren’t at a disadvantage, York said, any ballot proposal should contain the same exemptions that St. Louis County adopted. Among the exemptions to the smoking ban there are casino gambling floors and bars that derive 25 percent or less of their income from food or other non-liquor items.

Fogarty said she is undecided on whether smoking bans should be enacted but that she does now favor letting residents countywide vote on the issue.

Mayor Bill Hennessy, O'Fallon

Mayor Paul Lambi, Wentzville

Meanwhile, O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy and Wentzville Mayor Paul Lambi said they believe the issue should be addressed only on a statewide basis by the Legislature.

They both said they had no preference on whether the Legislature should enact a ban or keep the law the way it is now. That’s the position taken earlier this year by the board of the St. Charles County Municipal League.

To implement a countywide ban, the County Council would have to put on the ballot a county charter amendment. The charter now does not give the county jurisdiction over health issues in municipalities so the council itself could only impose a ban on unincorporated areas.

County Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, D-O’Fallon, said last week she’ll check with fellow council members to see if there is support for putting an amendment on the ballot or for the council voting itself to impose a ban in unincorporated areas.

St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano has said he would ask the Municipal League board at its next meeting in January to reconsider its toss-it-to-the-Legislature stand.

Pagano when he was an alderman pushed unsuccessfully for a smoking ban in his city. Now he says he won’t use his authority as mayor to cast a vote to break a likely 4-4 tie on the issue should a smoking-ban ordinance be formally introduced on his city’s current board.

On such a contentious issue, he said, he believes there should at least be a simple majority of support on the board for a ban to become law.

P-D 11/27/2009: “Mayor Slay: All of Lambert, including smoking lounges, will be smoke free”

A smoke-free Lambert Airport is long overdue!
Missouri GASP has been pursuing a smoke-free airport for getting on for 20 years. Those efforts intensified after 1993 when the tobacco industry was actively engaged in defeating legislation introduced by former St. Louis County Councilman Kurt Odenwald to make the airport smoke-free.

For some background, please read the peer-reviewed paper “Airport smoking rooms don’t work” by Pion and Givel which appeared in the journal Tobacco Control, March 2004, Vol. 13, Supp. No 1, pp i37-i40, published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

It details not only the tobacco industry’s nationwide efforts to keep smoking inside major U.S. airports to protect its bottom line, but also Missouri GASP’s nicotine monitor measurements which proved the airport smoking rooms installed later by the airport authority, over our objections, were ineffective at containing all the secondhand smoke inside them, despite airport claims to the contrary.

I provided the following long quote to reporter Margaret Gillerman, a few of which made it into the article below:


Missouri GASP has been seeking a smoke-free Lambert Airport for close to 20 years.

That’s about as long as the tobacco industry has been working to ensure smokers could continue to light up in major U.S. airports, as set out in the now-defunct Tobacco Institute’s “Airport Strategy Plan,” hatched around 1990. The industry has been aided and abetted in this goal by Lambert airport officials and local politicians.

Over the years, Missouri GASP has demonstrated outside City Hall, collected petition signatures at the airport, lobbied both City and County legislators, and finally pursued a seven-year ADA discrimination complaint against Lambert on behalf of smoke-sensitive individuals alleging denial of access. In support of that complaint we conducted independent nicotine monitor tests which were reported in a peer-reviewed 2004 published paper, “Airport smoking rooms don’t work.”

The only concession the airport made was to install seven ineffective smoking rooms over our objections at a reported cost of close to a half-million dollars.

Now at last the airport is going smoke-free January 2011. It’s about time!”

(For a more detailed history of our efforts to get Lambert to go smoke-free please click the link “County smoking ban bill gets airport exemption,” posted November 22, 2009.)

Mayor Slay is to be commended for finally bringing down the hammer on the tobacco industry and putting public health first.

And our immense gratitude also to Ald. Lyda Krewson, whose persistence in promoting this smoke-free air legislation which included the airport was finally successful after months of agonizing delays.

Mayor Slay: All of Lambert, including smoking lounges, will be smoke free

Image reproduced from St. Louis Post-Dispatch web site

May 2003 – Marine Mike Meyers (right) of California smokes a cigarette with his friend (left) Blake Redd of Ohio in one of Lambert’s smoking lounges. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay plans for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to be completely smoke-free when the city’s new smoking ban takes effect in January 2011, including the smoking lounges. (Laurie Skrivan/P-D)


St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay plans for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to be completely smoke-free when the city’s new smoking ban takes effect in January 2011.

And that includes the airport’s smoking lounges.

Slay commented on his blog this week after fielding questions from the Post-Dispatch about a conflict between the new St. Louis County smoking ban — which exempts the smoking lounges — and the city ban — which does not. Both take effect on Jan. 2, 2011.

Slay noted that the airport is a “political hybrid,” in that it is in St. Louis County but owned by the city. But the decision on smoking, Slay said on his blog, belongs to the city, “as owner of the facility.”

St. Louis County counselor Patricia Redington said the smoking lounge exemption is clear in the county ordinance.

But, she added, “If the city hands out citations to smokers in the lounge, the city’s authority to do so will be an issue between the city and the people who are charged and will not be the county’s concern.”

The nine smoking lounges have been in operation since 1997; smoking is banned everywhere else inside the airport.

Slay’s comments were posted on his website Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea said the airport planned to follow the St. Louis County law.

The next day, after Slay’s statement, Lea added, “The city, as owner and operator of the airport facility, can certainly follow stricter regulations than those imposed by St. Louis County.”

Longtime anti-smoking activist Martin Pion and his group, Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), have been trying since at least 1993 to rid Lambert of smoking. About 150 airports around the U.S. do not allow any smoking.

“This is a travesty — this has been going on for too long,” Pion said of the lounges.

When told of the mayor’s position, Pion called it “fantastic.”

The exemption for airport lounges was in the county ban approved by St. Louis County voters on Nov. 3.

Airport Director Richard Hrabko had argued for the lounges in a letter to the County Council in August.

The letter said the airport had spent “several hundred thousand dollars to construct and maintain 9 smoking lounges for the use of our passengers and employees. These units have sophisticated ventilation systems and capture virtually 100 percent of the secondhand smoke.”

Without them, his letter continued, “we will create a terrible situation with scores of people standing in front of the terminals and in the garages smoking and creating an annoyance to nonsmokers as well as a constant policing by the airport staff.”

County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser’s bill was amended to exempt airport smoking lounges after Hrabko’s letter was received.

St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson, who sponsored the city smoking ban bill, said she would “certainly support getting rid of smoking lounges if we can figure out a way to do it. Many cities have, and I am sure we can, too.”

Hrabko said in a statement this week that eliminating the smoking rooms could cause problems for nonsmokers.

“Banning smoking throughout the airport has the potential to cause significant security issues with passengers having to leave secure areas to smoke outside, and then return through security screening,” he said. “We create a bigger problem for our customers by not having smoking lounges.”

Slay referenced Hrabko’s position on his blog, saying, “Airport director Dick Hrabko, who is retiring, has made some strong arguments in the past about the logistics and security of moving smokers outside the terminal. However, I will work with the incoming airport director to see how Mr. Hrabko’s issues can be addressed.”

Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, who has served the last seven years as American Airlines’ managing director in St. Louis, will take over as Lambert director on Jan. 1.

P-D 11/21/2009: “Lake Saint Louis smoking ban proposal gains steam”

The following story from the Post-Dispatch Suburban Journals suggests that the recent major political gains made in St. Louis City and County on the smoke-free air front may be igniting similar interest in neighboring communities. Efforts in support of quite modest smoke-free air legislation in Lake St. Louis stalled many years ago, but now are evidently having fresh life breathed into them.

This is welcome news, and Pat Lindsey of the Tobacco Free Missouri St. Louis Coalition does a good job in the story below of rebutting all of Bill Hannegan’s stale arguments.

Lake Saint Louis smoking ban proposal gains steam
Aldermen push ahead on restrictions in public places

By Joe Scott
Saturday, November 21, 2009 1:15 AM CST

Most Lake Saint Louis aldermen said Monday they are on board with pursuing a smoking ban for the city.

Alderman John Pellerito, Ward 3, said he plans to draft a new ordinance that would ban all indoor smoking in public areas.

Five of the city’s six aldermen informally expressed support for the measure at their meeting Monday. One council member voted against pursuing a smoking ban, and the mayor also opposed the proposal.

“I got a 5-to-1 vote of confidence to continue on with the smoking ban,” Pellerito said.

Alderman Harry Slyman, Ward 1, said he agreed with creating a smoking ban in general. He approved drafting an ordinance, but said he would have to see the ordinance before committing to support it.

Slyman said he’d prefer a countywide ban so Lake Saint Louis establishments don’t lose business to those in other nearby cities.

“We don’t want to restrict the rights of our business owners, and we wouldn’t want to lose money to our neighbors,” he said.

Alderwoman Charlotte Norton, Ward 2, was the only board member to oppose a ban. The Journal was unable to reach Norton before its deadline Friday.

Mayor Mike Potter also opposed the ban. He said he believes it would hurt some businesses and that there would be a problem enforcing the ban.

Pellerito said he expects to introduce an ordinance in December. The board could vote on the proposal in January. If it passes, Lake Saint Louis would be the first St. Charles County municipality to enact a public smoking ban.

Pat Lindsey, executive director of an anti-smoking group called the Tobacco-Free Missouri Greater St. Louis Coalition, is rooting for the Lake Saint Louis ban. “The more municipalities who enact the bans, the easier it is to take it countywide,” Lindsey said.

Pellerito said economic data from places that have enacted smoking bans, such as Clayton and Ballwin in St. Louis County, show the bans do not hurt businesses.

Bill Hannegan, who is part of a smoking ban opposition group called Keep St. Louis Free, said that’s not true for all businesses.

Harry Belli, a bar and restaurant owner, said he had to close Harry’s West in Ballwin after that city enacted a smoking ban in 2006. Belli said he lost $2,000 to $2,500 a week in the bar and restaurant, which allowed smoking only in the bar and patio area.

Lindsey said she doubts a smoking ban had anything to do with Harry’s West closing. She said Harry’s West revenues likely dropped because of the recession and increased competition from Chesterfield Valley area restaurants.

“It’s not going to affect a strong business,” she said.

Hannegan noted St. Louis County exempted casinos from smoking bans.

“The casinos sure believe it does (affect business),” he said. The casino exemption may be the basis for a legal challenge to the St. Louis County ban, Hannegan said.

He said Tennessee’s approach, which allows smoking only in public places that admit only adults ages 21 and older, makes more sense. More people support that measure, he said.

Hannegan said the government still can protect workers’ health by requiring filtration systems. Lake Saint Louis currently has a filtration system requirement.

However, Lindsey said filtration systems do not work well enough to make smoky air healthy.

“Business owners owe it to their employees and their customers to protect their health and ban smoking in their buildings,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said her organization, which supported the St. Louis County smoking ban ballot measure, plans to start a petition drive to put a similar measure on the ballot in St. Charles County.

“We’ll do it if we find enough volunteers to get signatures,” Lindsey said.

“County smoking ban bill gets airport exemption”

NOTE: This blog post was started three months ago, as indicated by the introduction below, but then got pushed aside by more pressing issues. I returned to it recently after learning that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was preparing to do a story on the vexed issue of Lambert Airport’s smoking rooms. This blog provides extensive background but is still a work in progress.

I attended the county council meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2009, at the County Government Center in Clayton, expecting Councilwoman Barbara Fraser to introduce a version of her previous Substitute 2 for Bill # 189, and she did. This version was weaker than Substitute 2 though: in addition to exemptions for casinos and small bars it also exempted the smoking rooms in Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

If anything was designed to stiffen Missouri GASP’s opposition to this bill this was it!

I cannot begin to describe how much time I’ve spent personally on trying to get Lambert Airport to go smoke-free, with help over the years from many Missouri GASP members and supporters. We’ve dressed up in “Smoke-Buster” clean room coverall outfits, sometimes wearing safety respirators or dust masks, and demonstrated outside St. Louis City Hall, as well as collecting petition signatures in the airport itself. This is illustrated in a flyer we prepared for Earth Day 1996, from which the photos below are reproduced. [Sorry for the poor quality but the original has been lost and this was printed on low-cost recycled paper.]

Asthmatic Vivian Dietemann being escorted around outside of airport to board plane. Airport petition signature gathering.

Smoke-sensitive asthmatic, Vivian Dietemann's, accessible path through the airport: being driven around outside to her plane on the tarmac, November 4, 1995. Petitioners Jim Elliott (left), Candy McCandliss, and Richard Taylor gathering signatures at the airport, Nov-Dec, 1995

In early 1993, former County Councilman Kurt Odenwald introduced two bills: one to make Lambert Airport entirely smoke-free, the other to do the same for all county buildings and vehicles. From February through April, while the bill was being considered, John Shear, then my county councilman, was meeting regularly and in private with two top executives from the former Tobacco Institute, the lobbying and propaganda arm of the tobacco industry. One was from their regional office in Kansas City, MO, the other from their Washington, DC, headquarters. They persuaded him to substantially weaken the bill, providing him with draft substitute language. When I asked Shear for an appointment during this period he initially agreed but then cancelled, making the excuse that he wanted to remain neutral and not “set a precedent.”

Both bills were referred to the Justice and Health Committee, chaired by Shear (shown below left in photo montage). The bill had the support of four council members – sponsor Odenwald, co-sponsor Geri Rothman-Serot, Deborah Kersting, and Greg Quinn (also shown below).

Council members Shear, Odenwald, Rothman-Serot, Kersting, and Quinn (Photos taken from press clippings, except Quinn)

Council members Shear, Odenwald, Rothman-Serot, Kersting, and Quinn (Photos taken from press clippings, except for Quinn's)

During two executive meetings of the committee Shear declared that he preferred having [toxic and carcinogenic] secondhand smoke throughout the inside of the airport rather than having to walk through a group of smokers standing outside an entrance. When Kersting suggested designating smoke-free entrances, Shear dismissed the idea out of hand.

That echoes a comment made by an opponent of a smoke-free airport this year. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin, in his August 12, 2009, story County smoking ban bill gets airport exemption, current Lambert Airport Director, Richard Hrabko, made this statement about airport smoking:

     Hrabko said a smoking ban would encourage people to smoke at terminal entrances and in garages.
     “We don’t want passengers walking through a gantlet of smokers,” he said.

MN-StPaul_NoSmoking_sign HISTORICAL NOTE: I happened to fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, MN, on May 23, 1993, which had gone entirely smoke-free inside just a month earlier, and found few smokers near entrances. Appropriate signage and removal of ashtrays from inside and near entrances had addressed the issue. Here are some photos I took at the time.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport sporting new "No Smoking" sign
Several smokers outside airport entrance looking towards entrance

Several smokers outside airport entrance looking towards entrance

View from airport entrance towards road with several smokers on the right

View from airport entrance towards road with several smokers on the right

Returning to 1993, how did the tobacco industry defeat this bill? Not only were they colluding with Shear, but they also brainwashed Kersting’s administrative assistant, Joe Hardy. At a critical committee vote on Odenwald’s bill on the morning of April 29, 1993, Shear introduced a surprise substitute greatly weakening the original bill and putting smoking back into bars and cocktail lounges. Kersting, expected to vote for the original bill, instead switched to supporting the substitute and, in the full council meeting that afternoon, voted against the original airport smoke-free air bill, which prompted Odenwald to withdraw his bill to prevent enactment of the much weaker substitute.

During Shear’s presentation of his substitute in the morning, I noticed Hardy go over and talk to the two top Tobacco Institute lobbyists, who were sitting in the back of the visitors’ section of the committee room.

Later, when I questioned him about this, Hardy defended his action, saying the tobacco lobby was a valid source of information. He said he’d been talking to them about “ventilation” but declined to elaborate.

I learned later that three days before the upset committee vote Shear, Kersting and Hardy had toured Lambert Airport and while there Shear had convinced Kersting that the kitchen exhaust hoods provided in restaurants were adequate to deal with secondhand smoke generated in those areas.

NOTE: Ironically, Kersting is now Executive Director of the Greater Missouri March of Dimes and in that capacity, testified in favor of a strong ordinance before St. Louis County Council during consideration of Barbara Fraser’s Sub. 2 bill on August 4, 2009.

After introducing his substitute Shear was asked by Channel 4 TV reporter, Ellen Harris, on April 29, 1993, if he’d received any money from the tobacco lobby. Shear emphatically denied having done so.

However, Shear evidently already had an I.O.U. in his pocket because in September, 1993, Shear’s campaign report for his run for the state senate seat held by Democratic incumbent, John Schneider, showed a contribution of $1,000 from The Tobacco Institute in Kansas City, MO. That was the single largest contribution for the first six month reporting period.

Yes, the tobacco industry takes care of its own – or does it? Only a paltry $1,000 to buy a county councilman and save them possibly millions in lost tobacco sales?!

Formal complaint submitted to Deputy Airport Director, October 1993

Formal ADA complaint submitted to Deputy Airport Director, October 1993

Following the tobacco industry defeat of the county bill in 1993, Missouri GASP pursued a federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination complaint against the airport on behalf of two highly smoke-sensitive individuals, Ms. Vivian Dietemann, St. Louis, and Ms. Patricia Young, Dallas, Texas, submitting it to Deputy Airport Director, Gen. Hargrove, at a smoke-free venue so that Ms. Dietemann could attend, as shown in the photo above.

Patty Young (photo from web)

After months of inaction by the airport authority Missouri GASP learned that our discrimination complaint had "gone astray," so we filed another complaint, this time directly with Mr. Edward B. Brzezinski, U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis on July 13, 1994, who forwarded it to the DOT's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in Washington, DC. We received considerable help in writing the complaints from Mr. Billy Williams, a retired airplane mechanic living in Texas who has dedicated himself to this issue (Please visit his website). He also helped file a detailed appeal when the complaint was initially rejected by the DOT Office of Civil Rights.

Airport Director, Col. Leonard Griggs

Airport Director, Col. Leonard Griggs

During the consideration of our complaint I met with former Airport Director, Colonel Leonard Griggs in December, 1994, to urge him to make the airport smoke-free. He said he was leaning in that direction but also considering totally enclosed and separately ventilated smoking rooms, which I said on technical grounds would not work unless equipped with an airlock and their own air supply.

After waiting almost a year with little to show for it we filed a Freedom of Information Act request on November 9, 1995, with the FAA Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requesting all pertinent documents relevant to our complaint against Lambert Airport. We received a detailed reply dated December 5, 1996, mostly devoted to Lambert’s ADA Compliance Survey, aimed at ensuring compliance with access requirements for those with physical disabilities such as individuals using wheelchairs or the vision impaired.

The cover letter signed by airport director Leonard L. Grigg, Jr. P.E., was in reply to eleven questions posed by Ms. Linda K. Dimon, Acting Manager-Civil Rights Staff, FAA, Kansas City, Mo, in a letter dated September 15, 1995. An earlier request to Griggs dated May 25, 1995, and signed by Johnnie Terry-Flemming, Manager, Civil Rights Staff, asking for the same information had evidently gone unanswered.

The questions, and subsequent answers, are detailed below but the cover letter from Griggs also sheds light on the airport’s attitude towards it’s alleged violation of the ADA as it relates to discrimination against highly smoke-sensitive individuals with breathing disabilities covered by the ADA.

In his cover letter dated November 1, 1995, Griggs starts by noting that no record can be found of the original complaint handed to General Rick Hargrove by Martin Pion at the time the photograph above was taken in October, 1993. Griggs writes:

Thank you for your letter of September 25, 1995, concerning a complaint filed by Mr. Martin Pion. After reviewing our files, we have no record of the letter dated October 28, 1993, written by Mr. Pion on behalf of Ms. Vivian Dietemann and Ms. Patricia Young. …

It is our interpretation that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 does not address the issue of smoking in the area of public accommodation at airports. …

Our current smoking policy provides smoking areas as outlined under the terms of the State law and County ordinance. Lambert Airport instituted its smoking policy on June 15, 1992. The airport’s smoking task force recently evaluated the issue of totally eliminating smoking at the airport. After careful evaluation, it was determined that designated smoking areas should be placed in various parts of the airport in order to better serve the traveling public. Therefore, the Airport Authority submitted a request to the Capital Improvement Program to construct seven enclosed smoking lounges throughout the airport. These smoking lounges will be completed by early spring 1996.

There is a one-page attachment to the cover letter providing the responses to the 11 questions from the FAA OCR:

1. Airport and/or City’s contact person for ADA complaints:
Ms. Deborah Dee [Ph.D.]. [Contact information provided.]

2. Copy of airport’s procedures for processing complaints of discrimination based on handicap under 49 CFR 27.13(b):
See attached package (1). [This details the airport’s “Grievance Procedures for Public Services” and includes a one-page “Public Services Complaint Form” with the contact information of the complainant, and space for complaint description and resolution requested.]

3. Copy of airport’s ADA Self-Evaluation, as required under 28 CFR 35.105:
See attached package (2).[There was no attachment (2) but there was an ADA Compliance Survey, dated January 26, 1993. This relates to access issues relating to wheelchair access and the like but not to individuals with secondhand smoke sensitivity.]

4. Written description of Lambert’s smoking policy, plus diagram of smoking areas.
See attached package (3).
This was a two-page document detailing the smoking policy effective June 15, 1992, plus two pages indicating where the smoking designated areas were located, including designated public areas, non-public areas controlled by the airport, and areas leased to tenants.

5. Airport’s analysis and determination regarding the feasibility of eliminating smoking from airport property.
Lambert Airport evaluated eliminating smoking totally in the airport which included discussions with groups who provided their opinion on all phases of the smoking issue. To best serve the traveling public, it was determined to provide designated smoking areas for those who smoke. An estimate was determined for the construction of the smoking areas and with the Capital Improvement Program. An interim procedure restricting smoking to certain areas was developed, placed into effect, tested, and revised several times to accommodate both segments of the traveling public. Currently, the plans and specifications for the smoking lounges are approximately 90% completed, with target bidding date for December 1995. The construction date will be spring to early summer 1996.
At the time this document was prepared Missouri GASP had not been included in the above-noted consultations.

6. Airport’s analysis and determination regarding the feasibility of limiting smoking to totally enclosed and separately ventilated areas.
Same as above.

7. Description of processes/systems used by the airport to allow accessibility designs to be examined by qualified individuals familiar with the needs of persons with disabilities and/or customers with disabilities and local disability organizations.
The ADA Task Force meets to examine plans and policies for the airport. These members include representatives who are visually disabled, audibly disabled, motor dependable, and paraplegic. The task forces meets, as required, and tests guidelines on what they want to see in the airport to meet the needs of the ADA in order to better serve the disabled community.
Missouri GASP was never part of this task force, nor was it ever invited to be.

8. A copy of any other complaints filed with the airport relative to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and your disposition of them.
As far as we can ascertain, no complaint (filed with any federal agency) or private suit has been filed. The airport has not had a complaint under the ADA.
Martin Pion, Missouri GASP, was told by Ms. Cathy Ferris, who is very smoke-sensitive, that she had complained about smoking inside the airport but no documentary evidence was provided.

9. A copy of any correspondence generated by the airport or the city relative to the issues raised in Mr. Pion’s complaint of October 28, 1993.
See attached package (4)
This relates to a 5-page letter from Ms. Vivian Dietemann, dated October 14, 1993, with attachments addressed to Griggs, referencing both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, and a reply dated October 25, 1993, from Kathy Leonard, Lambert’s Public Relations Manager, which notes the airport’s intention in next year’s capital improvement program “to provide new and improved ventilated smoking areas.”

10. A summary of actions taken that culminate with Lambert’s proposed response to this complaint. Please include a correlation between your response and the applicable law/regulation.
There is no regulation about smoking in reference to ADA. As for the Airport Authority, the City’s ADA representative, and other people familiar with the ADA, no regulation can be found in the public accommodation guidelines dealing with the smoking issue.
This is an example of gross negligence, since despite efforts by the tobacco industry to get Congress to exempt smoking, the ADA regulations actually require public places to be accessible to those individuals with breathing disabilities caused or exacerbated by secondhand tobacco smoke, up to and including a totally smoke-free environment. But the regulations also require the issue to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

11. Any other pertinent information indicating the airport’s compliance with the ADA in this matter, including a determination as to whether Mr. Pion’s request is “doable” or whether complying with Mr. Pion’s request would place an undue burden on the airport, as defined in the ADA.
The airport is not in conflict with ADA. There is no requirement with ADA under the public accommodation section. However, to better serve the public, ADA has included provisions of smoking lounges.
This reiterates the erroneous statement made in the preceding response. Also, Lambert later admitted that this last sentence was incorrect, and there is no provision in the ADA for smoking lounges.

The following year MoGASP contacted Dr. Deborah Dee, Commissioner of the Office on the Disabled with the City of St. Louis. In a certified letter dated March 23, 1996, we formally requested the City to “perform a self-evaluation of its services, policies and practices in regard to persons with respiratory disabilities, as required by Title II of the ADA and its implementing regulations, 28 CFR Part 35 section 35.105,” and alleged “continued denial of access to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport” for such individuals.

Dr. Dee’s initial response, dated March 27, 1996, was enthusiastic, and included a half-inch thick inventory of actions taken to ensure compliance with the ADA, although as with Lambert’s self-evaluation it omitted those with respiratory disabilities. This continues to be surprising, given that on page 1 of the document she sent is the following, quoting directly from the ADA implementing regulations:

The term disability is defined in the ADA with respect to an individual as:

1. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activity.

According to the regulations, “The phrase major life activities means functions such as …. speaking, breathing, …. working.”

Subsequently, Dr. Dee faxed me an invitation to a meeting with Mr. Bill Fronick at Lambert Airport on April 18, 1996, and I hoped that this would lead to a dialog about the removal of smoking from inside the airport. Instead, when I met with Dee and Fronick, the former said nothing and the latter laid out the airport’s plans to install semi-enclosed smoking rooms throughout the airport and then sign the rest of the airport as No Smoking.

I responded that, based upon my scientific knowledge of designing and supervising a semiconductor clean room at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. where I worked, the rooms described by Fronick would not work unless provided with an airlock and completely separate HVAC system. Fronick rejected that argument, saying that he had experience designing operating rooms in hospitals.

MoGASP sent two detailed letters to Dee following this meeting, the second by certified mail being also sent to Fronick, Michael Donatt, Airport Legal Department, Griggs, and Marie Yancey, Lambert Public Information Office.

The letter again formally complained of denial of access for breathing disabled individuals to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.

This prompted a terse May 15, 1996, reply from Dee:

Thank you for your correspondence dated May 9, 1996. I will not respond to this correspondence because you have filed a formal ADA complaint which is pending. Thank you for the information you provided.

That was the last time I heard from Dr. Dee, who is now retired.

The airport’s plans to install 7 smoking rooms was featured in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by reporter Mark Schlinkmann headlined “Airport Spending $420,000 On Smoking Rooms” which appeared February 29, 1996. The photo accompanying the story is shown below.

Caption: Lambert Field employees and travelers puff away in one of 13 open areas where smoking is permitted. Separate rooms for smokers are planned.

Quoting from Schlinkmann’s article:

     Griggs said in 1994 he wanted to make the airport smoke-free. But since then, he said, he and airline officials have agreed that some customers, especially those waiting for connecting flights, “have a need and do smoke.”
     “We tried to make the right decision to accommodate everybody,” said Griggs, who said he shed his own cigarette habit about 15 years ago.
     Anti-smoking activists here reacted cautiously to the plans for the separately ventilated rooms, which have to be approved by the commission that oversees the airport.
     The activists said that the rooms can only improve the environment at Lambert, which Pat Lindsey of the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study called “the ashtray of the Midwest.” But they said it would be better just to ban all smoking inside the airport buildings, saying that would do a better job of reducing the risk of cancer and other health problems they say can result from secondhand smoke.
     And the $420,000 cost here riled some of them.
     “It would be much simpler not to spend the money and to bite the bullet as other airports have done” and prohibit smoking, said Martin Pion of Missouri GASP, which is short for Group Against Smoking Pollution.
     Pion and Lindsey complained that the rooms would not keep fumes entirely out of the general terminal areas because they will not have doors, allowing people – and smoke – to go in and out freely.
     Marie Yancey, a Lambert spokeswoman, says the smoky air will not escape because it will be removed from the rooms too fast.
     Barbara Gann, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake City International Airport – which has had four such rooms since 1993 – said no smoke escapes.
     But at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, spokeswoman April Majors confirmed that some smoke does drift out of some of the 10 separately ventilated rooms installed there over the past year. Majors said, though, that the effect on the rest of the terminal is minimal.
     Thomas Lauria, a spokesman for the Tobacco Institute – the tobacco industry lobby group – said it prefers separately ventilated rooms to a prohibition on smoking. But he criticized one aspect of Lambert’s planned policy – the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

By February of the following year, the estimated cost of the smoking rooms had risen to $450,000 after some reported construction problems. But by then the smoking rooms were also nearing completion, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by reporter Robert Manor, “Where There’s Smoke: There’ll Soon Be A Lounge, At Lambert,” published February 3, 1997. The Post-Dispatch Weatherbird, who was then still confined in a rectangle, had an accompanying comment on Manor’s article, which began:

     Smoking in Lambert Field’s bars and entrances will be off-limits soon, as the airport readies specially vented smoking lounges to separate people who enjoy tobacco from those who abhor it. …
Individual exhaust fans will draw air from the airport into each smoking lounge through a 3-by-7-foot open doorway, then vent it outside.
     The system depends on a constant flow of air through the lounge to blow smoke from cigars and cigarettes into the atmosphere, rather than remaining within Lambert’s concourses and terminal.
     The engineer who supervised the project says he is confident that the smoking lounges will work – even though the lounges depend entirely on the rush of air, having no door or other physical barrier to keep smoke away from nonsmokers.
     William C. Fronic (sic), Lambert’s assistant director of planning and engineering, said the airport will monitor the effectiveness of the lounges.

The story then continues with a bizarre statement by Fronick:

     “You could see the blue haze inside, but nothing came out the door,” he said. “We assume if you can’t see it, it’s not there.”

I found this statement by someone claiming to be a knowledgeable engineer to be incredulous. The median diameter of secondhand smoke is significantly less than one micron, i.e. less than 1/100th the thickness of a human hair, so it’s entirely invisible to the naked eye. It’s like Fronick is suggesting that the H1N1 virus doesn’t exist because you can’t see it!
Even the ancient Greeks understood there were particles which you couldn’t see with the naked eye: They coined the word atomos (“indivisible”) to describe the smallest of such particles.

Manor’s article continues:

     Fronic said the airport decided to try and accommodate all air travelers. “We have approached this as not being anti- or pro-smoking,” he said.
     Martin Pion, president of Missouri GASP – Group Against Smoking Pollution – says the airport was headed in the right direction in 1994 and is wasting money on smoking lounges that won’t protect people with respiratory problems.
     Pion oversaw a suite of clean rooms at McDonnell Douglas Corp. and is familiar with techniques for eliminating pollution from the atmosphere.
     Clean rooms keep environmental contaminants out of the atmosphere, and Pion says the same principle applies to smoking lounges.
     “A smoking room is a clean room in reverse,” he said. “You are trying to keep the pollutants and carcinogens in.”
     “You have to have an air lock,” Pion said. “You have to monitor the air pressure carefully.”
     Pion said that for the smoking lounges to work, they would need to be isolated from the airport by a double-doored air lock and a separate ventilation system to draw air from the outside, circulate it through the room and then exhaust it back outside.
     Pion has repeatedly goaded Lambert to ban smoking inside and outside the airport.
     For many people, tobacco smoke is a minor annoyance. For some, it is an environmental nightmare.
     Pion notes that individuals who react violently to minute concentrations of tobacco smoke have a right to use the airport. Terminal workers have a right to be free of smoke, he said.
     Several airports elsewhere seem to agree.

The article goes on to describe comments from air travelers, both pro and con.

A sidebar lists 18 out of 59 airports which are now totally smoke-free in the U.S., based on information provided by the Airports Council International-North America, 1995.

As noted above, my belief was that the smoking rooms being constructed in Lambert would not prevent some secondhand smoke from migrating out the open doorways into adjacent nominally smoke-free areas and a tour I made of the airport that year confirmed this subjectively. However, I wanted to scientifically test this personal observation by sampling the air near a smoking room using a nicotine monitor left in place for several days. I sent Griggs a formal request by certified mail on October 27, 1997, and received the following succinct reply dated October 28, 1997:

A written request for help sent to the FAA OCR in Washington, DC, was equally unsuccessful.

A word about the design of the the smoking rooms installed in Lambert, which are of a flawed design. They rely on air from the general air supply pulled in through the open doorway to capture all the tobacco smoke generated inside the room and exhaust it outside. However, the minute particulates and gasses in secondhand smoke aren’t quite that tame: they are governed by the laws of diffusion and move in all directions, including out through the open doorway and into adjoining nominally smoke-free areas where they can be detected by sensitive equipment, such as a nicotine monitor. Or sometimes by a sensitive human nose.

The principle is illustrated in the drawing below, based on an actual smoking room in Lambert Airport near Gates C10-C12 which was the subject of nicotine monitor testing in 1997/98 and again in 2002. A peer-reviewed paper “Airport smoking rooms don’t work” by Pion and Givel appeared in the journal Tobacco Control, March 2004, Vol. 13, Supp. No 1, pp i37-i40, published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) reporting test results for this room (since dismantled by the airport – see note below).

The tests in 1997-1998 were conducted for Missouri GASP by a TWA gate agent wearing a nicotine monitor while on duty. The monitor revealed significant nicotine vapor levels even 40 ft. from the smoking room entrance. The test result was featured in a Channel 5 KSDK-TV NBC News Cover Story which first aired on Tuesday, July 28, 1998, at 10:15 p.m. [play video below].

Reporter Linton Johnson interviewed William Fronick, Director of Planning and Engineering, and said that Fronick claimed that the air ducts in the ceiling suck up 100% of the smoke and send it outdoors.

Fronick (during interview): “The air is always trying to get in from the outside not get out from the inside.”

Co-anchor Karen Foss’s closing remark at the end of the Cover Story was:

“Airport officials say they will not comment on the study because they’ve not yet had time to review the results.”

I sent the “airport officials” a letter following the broadcast asking for their comment on our smoking-room results: they never responded.

To counter any possible accusations of fraud, which would have been easy for us to do, e.g. just expose the nicotine monitor in a smoky environment other than the airport, the test was repeated independently for Missouri GASP by Environmental Solutions, St. Louis, in September 2002, with a similar result. This confirmed our earlier assertion that the smoking rooms in Lambert Airport are ineffective at preventing secondhand smoke from migrating into adjoining designated “No Smoking” areas. A peer-reviewed paper describing the results, as well as tobacco industry efforts to thwart smoke-free air efforts in airports, including Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, is available on-line. Please click the link Airport smoking rooms don’t work to view/download the pdf file. The photos below are reproduced from that paper.

Lambert Airport nicotine monitor test, conducted September 26, 2002 by James Foley, Environmental Solutions

Lambert Airport nicotine monitor test, conducted independently for Missouri GASP on September 26, 2002 by James Foley, Environmental Solutions

Interestingly enough, without fanfare, the airport eventually dismantled the one smoking room we tested near gate C10, pictured above, but not the rest.

Here are the important conclusions from the above published paper:

The tobacco industry has deliberately thwarted the enactment
of smoke-free policies at major US airports, and has
instead promoted construction of costly smoking rooms.
Measurements of nicotine vapour concentrations in the air
inside Lambert Airport, St Louis, compared to a non-smoking
airport indicate that smoking rooms, where they exist, will be
the major source of secondhand smoke exposure for nonsmokers
in adjacent non-smoking areas. To protect the health
and welfare of employees and the public, and to prevent
unlawful discrimination against smoke sensitive individuals
with respiratory and other disabilities, airports should
prohibit smoking indoors and also around outdoor

To counter complaints of poor indoor air quality due to smoking from passengers, fend off possible regulation by St. Louis City or County, and accommodate the tobacco industry aim of continued smoking in airports, Lambert Airport has a long history of paying consultants to do indoor air quality [IAQ] testing in the airport. Every such report invariably concludes that IAQ meets all applicable federal and industry standards.

James Repace, a leading biophysicist who has published extensively on the subject of secondhand smoke, has pointed out that these consultants are using inappropriate standards and insensitive measuring techniques based on those standards. They are compounding those errors by using the simple puffer test used by HVAC [Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning] engineers to verify airflow just outside smoking room entrances, as shown in the clip below of video shot during testing of each smoking room for a report prepared for Lambert Airport by Global Environmental Solutions in February 2003.

A crude visual test like this reveals nothing about the invisible particulates and gasses constituting the bulk of SHS, as noted in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report of 1986.

[Please see page 137 The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. The report notes that SHS particulates are invisible and in the approximate size range 0.2 microns to 0.4 microns. For scale, 25 microns = 1 thousandth of an inch, and a human hair is typically 100 microns or 4 thousandths of an inch.

As noted in the report:

“ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) 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.”]

The ultimate “canary in the coalmine” is a smoke-sensitive human being and several having experienced the wonderful airport smoking rooms which officials claim to this day are 100% effective at containing secondhand hand smoke and venting it harmlessly outside. Probably the best evidence of the inadequacy of the smoking rooms was contained in a highly damning fax from Ms. Dorothy Graham, of Oakland, CA, received by Missouri GASP and dated August 13, 2000. This information and a reference to MoGASP’s nicotine monitor test results on an airport smoking room was sent to Mr. Julian E. Boyd, Deputy Mayor for Administration with the City of St. Louis on September 7, 2000, with copies to Francis Slay, President of the Board of Aldermen, Leonard Griggs, and William F. Compton, President and CEO of Trans World Airlines.

That prompted a reply from Griggs, dated September 29, 2000, reproduced below. While expressing a concern for the health and welfare of all airport users, it reaffirms full confidence in the performance of the smoking rooms, ignoring all contrary evidence. Below is the reply from Griggs (please click on either the link or the facsimile to view a clearer image), followed by the text of the fax from Ms. Graham with her photo appended.

Ms. Dorothy Graham of Oakland, CA, and repeat victim of SHS exposure from Lambert Airport's smoking rooms while awaiting connecting flights

Dorothy Graham:
      “I want to say that I can unequivocally disprove the claims of airport officials that smoke from these smoking lounges is vented out the ceiling, with none escaping into the airport. My respiratory distress upon disembarking at Lampert (sic) was immediate. The air at the gates adjacent to the smoking lounges is highly polluted with ETS, and the smoke permeates at a lower concentration throughout the airport, because there was literally no escaping it.”

Please click the following to view the pdf: Dorothy_Graham_081300_pp1_4

After ineffective efforts to get more media attention in early 2001, Freedom of Information Act Requests to the FAA OCR which were initially denied but partially approved on appeal, a formal appeal for assistance from Sen. Jean Carnahan, who responded on April 24, 2001, that “your case is currently being reviewed” by the FAA, a final decision with no possibility of appeal was issued by Fanny Rivera, Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights, dated June 5, 2001.

In essence, it dismissed the many arguments we had made, including the evidence for SHS escaping from the smoking rooms, on the grounds there was no relevant standard for nicotine, the incontrovertible surrogate we had used; that the airport tests showed the rooms were working properly; and that Missouri GASP had “offered no cases indicating that a disabled individual, as defined under the ADA, has been denied access to STL [St. Louis airport] as a result of sensitivity to tobacco smoke.”

The Letter of Determination included the following brief recommendations:

1) The Airport should continue implementing the following actions: a) self-evaluation of existing policies by monitoring the air quality in the smoking rooms to ensure the best possible air quality in the Airport; b) policing and enforcing its smoking policy; c) acknowledging and investigating all complaints; and d) responding to individual requests for accommodation.

2) The Airport should include GASP as one of the organizations tht it consults with in conducting future self-evaluations.

The entire document received from the FAA OCR can be viewed/downloaded by clicking the pdf file below:

County smoking ban bill gets airport exemption
By Phil Sutin

The St. Louis County Council is considering a new version of a bill that would send a smoking ban for indoor public places to voters on Nov. 3.

County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, introduced a version Tuesday night that includes an exemption for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which two previous versions did not. The council took no action on the latest version but dropped consideration of a previous version, which Fraser wanted eliminated to avoid legal challenges.

The airport requested the exemption Thursday, said Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south St. Louis County, a supporter of the bill and the airport exemption.

The airport has nine smoking lounges — eight in concourses and one in the main terminal. In an interview, Richard Hrabko, director of airports, said the smoking lounges work well to keep tobacco smoke away from nonsmokers. Hrabko said a smoking ban would encourage people to smoke at terminal entrances and in garages.

“We don’t want passengers walking through a gantlet of smokers,” he said.

He said the lounges prevent that while still accommodating smokers.

“A lot of people who smoke are cooped up two, three, four hours in planes that do not allow smoking,” Hrabko said. “We get a lot of people who thank us for the smoking lounges.”

But Martin Pion of the Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution said a smoking ban would add to the health and welfare of the public and people who work at the airport. He has tried since the mid-1990s to persuade authorities to ban smoking at Lambert.

“It’s amazing that every time anyone tries to make the airport smoke free, the airport wiggles out,” he said. Pion said that one of the tobacco industry’s main goals is to prevent smoking bans at airports. The companies believe airports are good places to sell their product, he said.

Bronson Frick, associate director of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation of Berkeley, Calif., said smoke-free airports are the norm, with at least 150 airports now smoke-free indoors.

Among the smoke-free airports on a list compiled by the 33-year-old foundation are airports in Boston; Chicago; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Louisville, Ky.; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Seattle; and Springfield, Mo.

The bill retains exemptions for casino floors and bars, but no longer says the council would rescind the exemption for casinos if St. Louis, St. Charles County, the city of St. Charles or the state of Missouri passed a smoking ban that prohibited smoking in these areas. Fraser said Monday she eliminated the triggers at the request of County Counselor Patricia Redington who told her the current council should not tie the hands of future ones.

Only bars that have incomes from food at 25 percent or less of gross income and operating when the proposed ban would take effect on Jan. 2, 2011, could get an exemption.

RFT: Submission for “St. Louis’ Most Underrated Restaurants”

Whistle Stop at lunchtime, November 17, 2009

On Sunday I was urged by a friend and supporter of Missouri GASP to nominate a favorite but underrated restaurant in response to a November 9th Riverfront Times article seeking such nominations on their food blog, written by Ian Froeb.

After lunch during a Road I training bike ride at the Whistle Stop, in downtown Ferguson

Nomination deadline was today (November 16th) and I posted the following 200 words in support of the Whistle Stop yesterday. The photo at left was of a group of students attending a Road I course I conducted last year just after lunch at the Whistle Stop part-way through a one-day training course, with me in the middle in front. Here’s my submission to the RFT:

The Whistle Stop in downtown Ferguson is a favorite of mine and, of course, it’s totally smoke-free.
Housed in the former Ferguson Train Depot which has been lovingly restored as a museum, the walls recount the origins of this city of 22,000 in North St. Louis County thanks to old photos and memorabilia. It sits alongside the active Norfolk-Southern freight line. The restored serving window is reminiscent of the original ticket windows.
I’m a certified League of American Bicyclist Cycling Instructor and whenever I conduct a bike education class we stop at the Whistle Stop for lunch and take a group photo before leaving to finish the on-bike part of the course.
The Whistle Stop offers a great three course lunch special during the week for only $6.99 plus tax: soup or salad; sandwich, one scoop of frozen custard to rival Ted Drewes, and a soft drink. You can view their web site and lunch specials at
Among my favorites: Italian Chicken with slices of pepperoni, chicken breast, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and Italian dressing in a tomato split top roll. I had that recently with “Death by chocolate” ice cream.

The above submission was in response to the following article, posted on the RFT blog:

Choose St. Louis’ Most Underrated Restaurants
By Ian Froeb in List Mania!
Mon., Nov. 9 2009 @ 5:09PM

Niche. Monarch. Pi. Certain St. Louis restaurants are discussed frequently around these parts. Too frequently, some might argue. But regardless whether or not you believe those particular places are deserving of the hype, you probably can think of at least one area restaurant that undeservedly flies under the radar.

I want to highlight these places. Or, rather, I want you to highlight these places. Choose the restaurant you think is the most underrated in St. Louis, make your case in a maximum of 200 words and email it to me by Monday, November 16. I’ll read through the entries and choose the nine most persuasive cases to include in the Ten Most Underrated St. Louis Restaurants. (I get to select one restaurant, too.)

Winners receive nothing except the pride of seeing their names and words reproduced on this here food blog. I reserve the right to reject any entry that I suspect is written by an employee — or the relative of an employee — at the restaurant nominated.

Finally, I grant that underrated is a subjective term. If you believe a restaurant that has been praised more than most is still underrated, feel free to nominate it. But you had better make a damn good case for it!

Let sleeping wrens sleep

This is totally unrelated to secondhand smoke. I mean TOTALLY! I’m posting it for light relief.

Yesterday (Sunday) I was busy almost all day in my front yard gathering piles of leaves from the two large sweet gums and separating out the leaves (to be composted) from the gum balls, which are like large brown prickly ball bearings, waiting for me to step on them and throw me off balance. (It happens occasionally in my front yard, which slopes down steeply to the road).

I had opened up the garage door and then changed into my old clothes to work in the yard. As I was heading out from my garage with my leaf rake and other garden implements a small bird that had inadvertently flown into the garage flew in a panic to one corner.

I decided to just leave it alone and went to work outside. After about an hour I reentered the garage and to my surprise the bird was still there, perched on a spare rear bicycle fender on top of a shelf unit. Furthermore, when I approached it, instead of flying off it stayed frozen on its perch which I lifted up and carefully carried outside.

No sign of life from the bird, a little wren, with its eye tightly closed. I got a camera and snapped some photos. Here’s the best one showing the wren dozing on one of the bike fender’s stays.


Wren fast asleep on bicycle fender stay

I called my wife to look at the phenomenon and as soon as she spotted it and started to speak the wren decided it was time to go and flew off.

P-D Letter 11/14/09: “Smoking ban: Beyond dollars and cents”

A St. Louis county restaurateur had a letter published in the Saturday St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the second most-read edition of the newspaper. In it he complains of the recently-approved county smoke-free air ordinance, not just because of concern over loss of business but what he also sees as hypocrisy on the part of government by omitting some workplaces, especially casinos.

I can sympathize somewhat with his argument, although it’s based on a lack of knowledge of this issue and the history behind it, plus a skewed viewpoint. After all, the very first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report dedicated to secondhand smoke, which concluded it was a cause of lung cancer in healthy nonsmokers, appeared in December 1988. That should have been followed by immediate government action to make all public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Instead, the tobacco industry reacted by immediately denouncing the report as a politically-motivated document without scientific merit and continued to work assiduously to oppose any restrictions which might affect its profitability.

The result has been a painfully slow process, most effectively pursued at the local government level, which only within the last few years is bearing fruit in the St. Louis region in Missouri. Even now, there are plenty of local jurisdictions still unwilling to act to protect the public health and welfare when it comes to secondhand smoke.

And the recently-enacted ordinances in St. Louis City and County have exempted some workplaces, most notably casino gaming floors and small bars, leading to the indignation in this letter writer. There is no rationale for this, other than political expediency. Eventually, employees in those and every other location must be provided with a safe, smoke-free work environment, the sooner the better.

I’ve submitted an on-line letter in response to Mr. Leve here and already there are other good letters, e.g. from Reese Forbes, who wrote:

I do not sympathize with Mr Leve – I do not remember him speaking at the County Council, St Louis City aldermanic hearings, or Kirkwood or Ballwin city halls. I was there for all of it, but with business people saying “WE don’t want ANY law” then there were no voices to prevent these exemptions. So that is what you got Mr. Leve, it is your fault, not our fault, as we want strong laws without exemptions.
So now you could stop rehashing the tired old song of “let business do what it wants” because by this time you should realize that song and dance is a looser. Instead you could work to close those exemptions – we will be glad to help.

BOTTOM LINE: Involuntary secondhand smoke exposure should not be a part of the job description.

Smoking ban: Beyond dollars and cents
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Letter

I am in the restaurant business in St. Louis, and to some it may seem that I am opposed to the smoking ban solely for economic reasons. My concerns go beyond the dollars and cents of the smoking ban. My main concern is the hypocrisy of our government.

The new law will ban smoking in most public places. Casinos are exempt because the politicians don’t want to risk losing the tax revenue that would come with a decrease in the area gaming industry. I thought that the ban was to protect people from secondhand smoke in public places. Apparently there is a caveat that states, “We will protect people from second hand smoke, unless it costs us tax revenue.”

One could argue that you don’t have to go to the places that are exempt from the smoking ban, and I would reply that this is true now. You don’t have to go into any business that allows smoking. This is the consumer’s right to choose, and this is how business in America used to be done. You give the consumers what they want or you go out of business. 

The government has no right to make that decision for anyone.

A second caveat must have been written that states, “We will protect people from secondhand smoke by forcing small-business owners to follow the ban because the small-business owners don’t have the resources raise enough opposition against the ban.”

Children obviously don’t have a say on where their parents take them, so one could argue that children need to be protected from the secondhand smoke. I want to know about all the children who live with a parent or parents who smoke. Who is protecting these children? Politicians know that to try to regulate what people do in their own homes is one sure way to be out of a job come next election time, so they must have added a third caveat to the smoking ban that states, “We will protect people from secondhand smoke, unless it might cost us our jobs.”

So I ask you, who is the government protecting here: our interests or theirs?

Cliff Leve — St. Louis County

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In Memoriam: Lilian (Leah) Williams, nee Pion

Today I’m posting something rather different to this blog, and the connection with secondhand smoke is hard to prove. It’s the anniversary of my sister’s death on November 11th, 1988, in Brighton, Sussex, on the south coast of England.

According to the death certificate I have in front of me, the cause of death, certified by D. Elsdon Myers M.B., was:

1a. Carcinomatosis
b. Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.


Martin Pion & Lilian Williams, nee Pion,
London, March 1988

Lilian was born in Whitechapel, east London, on December 1st, 1930, so she was just two weeks shy of her 58th birthday when she died on November 11th. I had gone back to England on a business trip in March of that year and managed to fit in a visit to see her. It was the first time in several years and we had a grand get-together with family members in the London home of a family friend. The picture above was taken at that time.

In June 1988, Lilian called from England to say she had bad news. She had gone to see her doctor, believing she had a bad case of bronchitis. Instead, she was diagnosed with incurable inoperable lung cancer and given between six months and two years to live.

Lilian's grave in Boscombe Jewish Cemetery

It was hard for me to believe, but the prognosis proved correct and six months later I attended her as she lay unconscious on her deathbed in her home in Brighton, and stayed for her funeral, which was in Bournemouth where we had both grown up and where my father was buried.

It probably took me a year to stop thinking of her almost daily and now, 21 years later, it’s on the day of her death that the sadness and feeling of loss returns most strongly. She was always such a cheerful person, and even shortly before her death remained stoic.

There were many happier times, of course, as illustrated by some of the other photos collected together here. My father died in 1944 just as we were starting to see the benefits of his trade as a tailor. That was because Bournemouth had many hotels which had been requisitioned and in which American and Canadian servicemen were billeted in preparation for the D-Day invasion of France.

Mum, Lilian and me near our tailor's shop, Lansdowne, Bournemouth, circa 1945

We didn’t know that at the time, but my father’s shop in a strategic spot near the town center, called Service Repair Tailors, proved to be in the right place at the right time and business was brisk. Servicemen came in to have uniforms cleaned and pressed, and ribbons sewn on. I remember helping with the latter task because of something that sticks in my memory. I recall a customer coming in to collect his uniform after having had some ribbons sewn on and just as he was about to pay I chimed up that that was a ribbon I had sewn on. The serviceman refused to accept it until it was redone professionally!

So what, if anything, has all this got to do with secondhand smoke? Lilian had been a teacher and eventually became principal lecturer in a teacher training college in Northampton, England.


Lilian in cap and gown


Lilian & husband David on a Greek island. They would visit a different one every year.

I visited her there first before the family get-together a few days later in London. The meeting in the college was an emotional one and, to celebrate, Lilian took me for a meal in the more upscale intimate dining room which also had a lounge area with chairs and tables.

We had just started our meal when a male staff member entered and sat at the far corner of the room, maybe 20 or so feet away, and lit up a cigar. My sister, who had her back to him, didn’t bat an eye but it certainly bothered me, as someone highly sensitive to tobacco smoke.

But what could I do?

We were having the first meal together in years with my sister entertaining me. Then a group of four people sat down closer to us and two lit cigarettes. My sister continued to be unaware of all this tobacco smoke but by now it had become intolerable and I asked my sister, very reluctantly, if we could leave without finishing our meal.

At her funeral in November of that year one of the mourners introduced himself as Harry Diamond, and said he was a very good friend of my sister. What struck me about him was that whenever it was possible for him to smoke he would light up a cigarette.

So here’s my speculation. Unlike me, my sister was evidently not bothered by secondhand smoke yet she was exposed to it daily, both in the teacher’s common rooms at work and when with friends. There’s an estimated 20% chance of secondhand smoke exposure being the cause of premature death of an exposed nonsmoker. I can’t prove it, and my sister’s family was very offended when I suggested it, but that could have been why she died.

However, it reinforces the need to rid everyone’s lives of this avoidable air pollutant. Then no one would ever have to wonder:

Was it secondhand smoke that caused the death of a loved one?

Postscript: After returning to the U.S. I wrote to the head of the training college where my sister had been Principal Lecturer and asked them, in part to honor her memory, if they would consider making it smoke-free. I got a reply saying the request would be considered.

STOP PRESS: Mayor Slay signs St. Louis City smoke-free air bill, effective date Jan. 2011


Ward 28 Alderwoman Lyda Krewson

I learned yesterday (Tuesday) evening from Ald. Lyda Krewson that St. Louis City’s Mayor Slay had signed into law her smoke-free air bill. The signing took place on Monday, November 9. Officially, it was Board Bill 46 which got its first hearing on June 30, 2009.

I had thought that even after being approved by the full Board of Aldermen on Friday, October 30, just three days before the vote on St. Louis County’s Prop-N the following Tuesday, the bill still had some hurdles to jump so this was very welcome news. The bill was signed by Aldermen Lewis E. Reed, the President of the Board of Aldermen, immediately after the Board approved it by a vote of 20 to 7. Mayor Slay signed it into law 10 days later, the earliest possible date. It goes into effect on the same date as the county ordinance: January 2, 2011.

The importance of the Prop-N vote on St. Louis County’s smoke-free air ordinance was that St. Louis City’s law would not go into effect without the approval of the county ordinance. This was done to quell the fears of some aldermen of the need for a “level playing field,” that overused term which assumes that all the smokers flee from the jurisdiction enacting a smoke-free air law but no nonsmokers head in the opposite direction.

Ald. Lyda Krewson deserves our gratitude, not only for her relentless pursuit of passage of a good bill in the face of a lot of opposition from both committee members and affected businesses such as bars, as well as tobacco industry surrogates like Bill Hannegan, but her grace and good humor during a difficult and prolonged political process.

It should also be noted that at long last Lambert Airport has been roped in for regulation. The city ordinance contains no exemption for the airport smoking rooms, unlike the county ordinance, which included such an exemption at the behest of retiring airport director, Richard Hrabko.

Exemptions to permit continued smoking inside the airport are something Lambert has repeatedly and successfully sought every time it was potentially threatened with a smoke-free air law, starting with the first county bill in 1993, which was defeated after heavy tobacco industry lobbying and collusion between Tobacco Institute lobbyists and former St. Louis County Councilman John Shear. Following the bill’s defeat Shear received a donation from the Tobacco Institute in Kansas City, MO, of $1,000 for his Missouri senate campaign, the largest recorded contribution he received during the six month reporting period ending December, 1993.

Missouri GASP has been seeking a smoke-free airport since at least 1993, including filing an ADA discrimination complaint against Lambert and St. Louis City in 1994 which was eventually dismissed by the DOT Office of Civil Rights in 2001, after an appeal in 1995.