P-D blog 11/5/2009: “Bowling proprietors hope St. Louis County smoking ban will bring back customers”

A surprising change of tone from our former opponents, The Greater St. Louis Bowling Proprietors Association, who now are holding out an olive branch (and the promise of smoke-free venues) to nonsmokers. Well, that’s good news!

Also, the change of tone from the voluntary health agencies, led by the American Cancer Society, is quite a reversal from just a short time ago. I wonder if the major endorsement of Prop-N by voters at the polls on Tuesday had anything to do with it?!

The American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and American Heart Association stood on the sidelines and were even rumored to be considering opposing this measure before the vote, but lack of funding was apparently an issue. Their current position is “We were for it before we were against it and now were for it again.” Not very reassuring when you’re looking for reliable allies to help enact or strengthen smoke-free air laws.

Bowling proprietors hope St. Louis County smoking ban will bring back customers
By Phil Sutin
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Greater St. Louis Bowling Proprietors Association, which campaigned against the ban on smoking in indoor public places that St. Louis County voters approved on Tuesday, has conceded defeat. It hopes non-smokers will come to their bowling centers when the ban takes effect on Jan. 2, 2011.

“We know in the campaign there is opposition to smoking and some of our centers have talked about making their centers no smoking before the Jan. 2, 2011, deadline,” Gary Voss, the association’s executive director, said in a statement.

“For those non-smokers who voted with their pocketbook and stopped bowling because of smoking, we’re inviting them to vote with their pocketbook and return to bowling when we do become non-smoking facilities,” he said.

The association will continue to oppose exemptions for casino floors, some bars and the airport, because “it’s unfair for them to benefit at the expense of others, especially bowling centers,” Voss said.

The bowling proprietors are independent of other groups, but they are not alone in trying to close the exemptions in the ban.

My colleague Margaret Gillerman found that the regional chapter of the American Cancer Society, which had fought for a stronger smoking ban, is now continuing its call for the county to tighten its ban and plug exemptions through additional legislation.

“While it’s clear that Proposition N does not deliver smoke-free protections to all workers, voters in St. Louis County have overwhelmingly voiced their support for smoke-free indoor air,” the cancer society said in a statement.

“The passage of this measure confirms that smoke-free laws are uniformly popular with the vast majority of the public and brings critical momentum toward achieving meaningful health protection from secondhand smoke for all people who live and work in St. Louis County,” the society said.

“Bars and casinos in St. Louis County still exposed people to second-hand smoke, especially the employees,” the group said. “The American Cancer Society is strongly committed to the hard work that remains to give everyone in the St. Louis region smoke-free protection.”

The cancer society’s position has been shared all along with the American Lung Association and American Heart Association chapters here. At first the groups sharply criticized the ordinance on the ballot, but later moved to the sidelines to remain neutral and pick up the fight for a tougher law after the election.

Martin Pion, president of Mo GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), has been fighting the fight against second-hand smoke since the early 1980s. Because of the strong public vote for a ban, “we can go back to the county and say, ‘look, you heard from the voters. Now it’s up to you to do your job and remove the exemptions. It’s not fair to the people still being exposed to second-and smoke.’”

County Citizens for Cleaner Air, the campaign committee backing the smoking ban, on Tuesday filed a notice with the Missouri Ethics Commission that it had received on Monday a $5,000 donation frpm Express Scripts, a prescription drug insurance management company. State law requires candidates and campaign committees to report within 24 hours donations of more than $250 within 11 days of an election.

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