UrbanReviewSTL blog 11/4/2009: “Much of St. Louis region going (mostly) smoke-free by January 2011”

This blog, written from a City of St. Louis blogger’s perspective, looks at the recently approved smoke-free air bills in depth and is followed by plenty of debate on the measures from both those against (Bill Hannegan et al) and in favor (Ald. Jane Suozze).

Blogger Steve Patterson is a little more willing to accept exemptions than I am. I see no reason to exempt any place to which the public is invited or which is someone’s workplace. Not when we’re talking about secondhand smoke, which is not a minor nuisance. An ordinance enacted a year ago in Kansas City, MO, of which I became aware recently, has only two exemptions:

Private residences when not used for child care
and casino gaming floors.

The latter is regrettable but this ordinance is significantly stronger than the ordinance just approved by the St. Louis County public vote on Tuesday.

The link from the title below takes you to Steve Patterson’s extensive article followed by reader’s comments.

Much of St. Louis region going (mostly) smoke-free by January 2011

Author:Steve Patterson November 4th, 2009

November 3rd voters in St. Louis County approved a clean air bill covering their county (65% yes). Prior to their vote the Board of Aldermen in the City of St. Louis passed a bill doing basically the same thing in the city, which is separate from St. County.

Both will go smoke-free on January 2, 2011. Contrary to reports, the citizen vote in the County is not triggering the city bill – in fact the County bill is delaying the effective date in the city by one day. The city’s bill called for an effective date of January 1, 2011 unless the County ordinance began sooner. From section 15 of the city’s bill:

This Ordinance shall be effective on such date that the Saint Louis County enacts Smoke Free Air legislation, or on January 1, 2011, whichever date is later.

Since the county effective date is 1/2/2011 it is one day later in the city. The city’s language was poorly worded but the 2nd actually makes more sense anyway because you don’t want to try to change the policy on the night everyone is celebrating New Year’s. I’d have made it effective on 12/31/2010 but such measures usually start at the start of a year, not the end.

The City’s law exempts small bars for five long years from the effective date. So they will go smoke-free on January 2, 2016. Here is the exemption language:

Bars in existence on the effective date of this ordinance in which only persons aged twenty one (21) years old or older are permitted to enter the premises, the square footage of the entire floor area of the level of the building on which the bar establishment is located is two thousand (2000) square feet or less. The square footage shall not include kitchen areas, storage areas and bathrooms. The bar shall prominently displays outside of the premises at each entrance and above the bar the following sign in lettering that is black bold Arial font at (ninety-eight) 98 point size: “WARNING : SMOKING ALLOWED HERE”. This exemption for bars shall expire five (5) years after the effective date of this ordinance.

A bar is defined in the ordinance as:

“Bar” means an establishment that is devoted to the serving of alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises and in which the serving of food is only incidental to the consumption of those beverages, including but not limited to, taverns, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and cabarets.

My concern is that as most places goe smoke-free all the smokers are going to crowd into the small bars that permit smoking this exemption. If that happens the non-smoking patrons of those places may shift to non-smoking bars to avoid the increase in smoke. If this does happen that means these small bars will be increasingly dependent upon smokers. Instead of adjusting their business model to prepare for the coming smoke-free deadline they will be worse off than today.

Note that a new bar opened after January 2, 2011 it will be smoke-free regardless of the size. Other exemptions include:

2. Not more than twenty percent (20%) of hotel and motel rooms rented to guests and designated as smoking rooms. All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous and smoke from these rooms must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. The status of rooms as smoking or nonsmoking may not be changed, except to add additional nonsmoking rooms.
3. Private clubs that have no employees, except when being used for a function to which the general public is invited; provided that smoke from such clubs does not infiltrate into areas
where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. This exemption shall not apply to any organization that is established for the purpose of avoiding compliance with this Ordinance.
4. Outdoor areas of places of employment.
5. Tobacco retail stores as defined by this Ordinance.
6. Casino gaming areas as defined by this Ordinance.

I’m not overly bothered by these exemptions — except that last one. Employees of casinos are not immune from the dangers of 2nd hand smoke. Interestingly, the issue of casino workers exposed to smoke may get resolved in the courts.

Wynn Las Vegas is the second major resort operator to be hit with a lawsuit recently over secondhand smoke dangers. (Source)

One suit involved a pregnant casino employee. A woman should not have to quit her job to protect her baby’s health (unless her job is something like a race car driver, stunt woman, etc). Next steps will be to remove the casino exemption, pass similar measure in other Missouri Counties in the St. Louis area. Ideally the state will finally pass a state-wide measure.

We’ve got a little more than 13 months until places must go smoke-free. Hopefully some will make the transition sooner rather than waiting until the deadline. By going smoke-free before the deadline establishments can probably get some extra PR for doing so. Along those lines, establishments that go smoke-free prior to the deadline may want to consider advertising that fact here. Come January 3rd 2011 nearly every place will be smoke-free so by doing so early and advertising it they stand a better chance of not getting lost in the crowd of places.

On the other hand one restaurant owner told me before Tuesday he wanted to go smoke-free but wanted the law to require it. He will continue as a smoking establishment until the deadline — he doesn’t want to offend his regulars. He is glad it will become law so he is finally able to go smoke-free. I can respect that. I told him I’d visit him in 2011, but not before.

– Steve Patterson

Comments are closed.