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:

“Fantastic!

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)

BY MARGARET GILLERMAN
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
11/27/2009

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.

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

  1. I doubt that you’ll get many comments since one has to have a wordpress account… and not to many will want to go through the trouble.

    So sad to see those young men smoking. my artwork of yesterday (http://tinyurl.com/ydrq6b8) addressed the way we (as a species) treat ourselves.

    Today I visited a friend who was in the hospital after a new bladder. The first one destroyed by smoking. His holiday will be spent with a second round of chemo. We need to continue to get the word out to kids that there are very unpleasant consequences for this insidious drug.

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