P-D 11/09/2009: “Some wonder if smoking ban will waft westward”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Mark Schlinkmann, who used to cover the St. Louis County beat but now covers St. Charles County, has done a fair amount of digging for the article reproduced in full below.

Clr_Tom_Bailey_St.Charles_1988

Tom Bailey, St. Charles city councilman, 1988

It reminded me of my early dispiriting experience in St. Charles City, where I testified in 1988 in support of what, by the standards of the day, was a fairly good smoke-free air ordinance, concluding that St. Charles is a very tough nut to crack. Councilman Thomas O. Bailey introduced an ordinance in September, 1988, patterned after Clayton’s ordinance which was due to go into effect soon afterwards. I worked hard with Tom on this issue, testifying at a hearing and getting others to attend in support too, but the measure was eventually soundly defeated.

A major New York Times article by reporter Douglas C. McGill was reprinted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch “News Analysis” (now called Opinion) page on December 27, 1988, entitled “Cigarette Clout – Top Profits Fuel War On Smoking Bans.” Next to the above photo of Tom Bailey is this quote of his:

“At the hearing it was motherhood and apple pie and smokers, and anyone who said differently was not a nice person.”

An earlier article in the Post-Dispatch St. Charles edition, published on Sept. 15, 1988, by reporter Bob Wehling is excerpted below:

Panel Urges City Council To Defeat Smoking Ban

“The public safety committee of the St. Charles City Council has unanimously recommended that a no-smoking measure be defeated. All five members of the committee [who are also city councilors] voted Tuesday night to put a “Do Not Pass” tag on the recommendation, which will be sent back to the full City Council for consideration… The measure, introduced last week by Councilman Thomas O. Bailey, 1st Ward, met almost instant resistance, from smokers and non-smokers. … The committee action Tuesday night is probably the death knell for Bailey’s proposal. … Among those voting against the measure was Council President Reid L. Bronson, 5th Ward.

A lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute, based in Washington, [DC] was among several who spoke against the measure. The lobbyist, Brennan Moran, said studies by the institute had produced no scientific evidence that:
Smoking by an individual has an effect on nearby non-smokers.
Businesses should remain free to establish their own rules on smoking based on public demand.
Measures such as the one proposed by Bailey could cause havoc and carry “a big price tag to enforce.”

Brennan_Dawson

Brennan Dawson Moran, Tobacco Institute, circa 1988

[Note: Ms. Brennan (now Dawson) Moran was assistant to the President of the Tobacco Institute in 1988 and rose to become Senior VP. The accompanying photo was found in an on-line article at Source Watch. I have a copy of Moran’s written testimony which runs to 11 pages and is full of the kind of disinformation that is still being repeated by smoke-free air opponents today. Her testimony dismisses the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s 1986 report, The Health Consequence of Involuntary Smoking, as “a seriously flawed misrepresentation of the science.”]

Three speakers objected to the measure on the ground that it was more unnecessary government intervention in people’s lives. Councilman Rory Ridler, 4th Ward, already on record against Bailey’s measure, repeated his position, stating it would be a nuisance to enforce for the police department, as is the fireworks ordinance. He said public pressure and common sense would take care of the problem in public places, such as restaurants and groceries.

When you look back 20 years you realize that while we’ve made great strides, particularly recently on the local level, the opposition arguments don’t seem to have changed much.

Some wonder if smoking ban will waft westward
By Mark Schlinkmann
636-255-7203
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
11/09/2009

ST. CHARLES COUNTY — Jason Robinson, a smoker from St. Peters, worries that St. Louis County voters’ approval of a ban on smoking in most public places will trigger a push to do the same in St. Charles County.

“I have a feeling that (as) the next county over, they’ll probably try and do the same thing,” said Robinson, 37, who was interviewed while puffing on a cigarette outside Mid Rivers Mall.

St. Louis County’s vote last week indeed has spurred new efforts to enact similar prohibitions.

St. Charles County Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, D-O’Fallon, plans to see whether there is council support to either pass a ban for unincorporated areas or schedule an election on a countywide ban.

“I don’t think St. Charles County is much different from the people living in St. Louis County,” said Hibbeler, a smoker herself, who will introduce a bill only if she concludes it has a real chance of passage.
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In Lake Saint Louis, Alderman John Pellerito says he’ll ask his board to reverse its rejection in 2007 of his proposal for a city ban.

“This gives me more ammunition” to show there is public support, he said.

But other elected officials across the county remain opposed to local bans, either on philosophical grounds or out of concern that businesses would suffer.

“I hate cigarette smoke, but I don’t think it’s the government’s place,” said County Council Chairman Joe Brazil, R-Defiance. “If a business owner pays his taxes and buys his licenses, it’s his choice.”

And officials in three of the county’s largest cities — O’Fallon, St. Charles and Wentzville — said they saw no sign that the St. Louis County vote had improved the chances of passage on their governing boards.

Last year, the St. Charles City Council was urged by a city commission on health issues to pass a ban or let the city’s voters decide, but none of the 10 council members would even introduce such a bill.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether anti-smoking groups will mount a lobbying offensive for a smoking ban in all or part of St. Charles County.

One anti-smoking activist who is recommending action is Pat Lindsey, executive director of the Tobacco-Free Missouri Greater St. Louis Coalition. Lindsey said she’d like to get laws in St. Charles County in place by January 2011, the same time newly approved bans in St. Louis County and St. Louis take effect.

Passage in key parts of St. Charles County, she said, could build pressure on the Legislature to act.

“Have we reached that critical tipping point in this state before we go for a statewide law?” Lindsey asked. “I feel like we probably need St. Charles County first.”

The St. Louis and St. Louis County actions followed previous enactment of municipal smoking bans in three other major population areas — Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield.

Rochelle Nobs, former chairwoman of the coalition’s St. Charles County affiliate, is undecided what tack to take. She said it might be easier to persuade local officials “to jump on board now that somebody’s led the way.”

On the other hand, she said, it could be better to wait until the St. Louis County and St. Louis bans have been in effect for a while to show how they affect businesses and the public.

“Once they see the sky didn’t fall, they might be willing,” Nobs said.

St. Charles City Council President Larry Muench, who operates a tobacco shop and opposes smoking bans, predicted the idea will continue to have “severe problems” across the county.

Muench said the St. Louis County vote might even make passage in St. Charles County less likely because some businesses that allow smoking might get increased business from St. Louis County smokers crossing the Missouri River.

Diana Loomis, manager of Beef Eaters restaurant in St. Charles, said her establishment has been smoke-free about seven years.

“At first, it hurt the business because we had a bar crowd that was all smokers,” she said. “Now it’s helping.”

Randy Lightfoot, general manager of St. Charles Lanes, said that he’s concerned that bowling business could drop with smoking bans but that he expected “that’s going to be the way of the world.”

He said governments should wait until after the recession to consider bans because businesses already are suffering.

“It’s a terrible time to approach this,” he said.

Lightfoot and Steve Karagiannis, owner of Spiro’s restaurant in St. Charles, both said they were upset that the St. Louis County and St. Louis bans exempt casinos and give them an unfair edge over other businesses.

A spokesman for Ameristar casino in St. Charles said his company opposes smoking bans, partly because its competitor across the river in Maryland Heights, Harrah’s, will be exempt.

Jack Borgmeyer, managing partner of Grappa Grill in St. Charles, said his restaurant’s main concern is that the same rules apply statewide so establishments in one community don’t have an advantage over those in another.

The St. Charles County Municipal League last January passed a resolution stating that any change in smoking laws should be considered only on a statewide basis by the Legislature. Weldon Spring Alderman Mickie Ball said she planned to sponsor a proposed smoking ban for her city but didn’t do so because of the league’s recommendation.

Following the St. Louis County vote, Pellerito, the Lake Saint Louis alderman, and St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano, another smoking ban advocate, said they each would urge the league to reconsider its position.

Pellerito also said he’d ask the league to pass a resolution urging the County Council to put a countywide ban on the ballot.

St. Charles Councilman Richard Veit, who sponsored the Municipal League resolution on statewide action, said he’d oppose any change. He said some businesses in the county still could be hurt if they had to go smoke-free and others in nearby counties did not.

Veit added that he’s optimistic that more and more businesses in the county will go smoke-free on their own and that the issue will be decided by the free market.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann declined to take a position on whether his county should enact a ban. Now that the two neighboring areas have passed bans, he said, “we’ll study it a lot more closely.”

Some smokers interviewed last week said they were resigned to a smoking ban eventually passing in the county.

“I know we’re a dying breed,” said David Schwartz, 54, of St. Charles.

He said he’s not bothered by government bans. “I try not to impose my habits on anybody else.”

Stacy Reiter, 40, of O’Fallon, said she hopes smoking bans aren’t enacted in her county, but “I’m kind of getting used to it. A lot of the restaurants are doing it on their own.”

St. Peters Alderman Gus Elliott, who has tried unsuccessfully to get a smoking ban in his city, is skeptical there will be any shift on the issue across the county.

“I think politicians in St. Charles County are scared of their own shadows,” Elliott said. “They don’t want to offend smokers, they don’t want to offend nonsmokers.”

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