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.

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