Monthly Archives: December 2009

12/30/09 P-D: “Kirkwood smoking ban takes effect Saturday”

This Weatherbird cartoon accompanies a front page story by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Margaret Gillerman, on Kirkwood’s smoke-free air law, which goes into effect January 2, 2010.

As of 1:07 pm today it had garnered 103 on-line reader comments. There are numerous posts containing misinformation, which is par for the course. The story is posted on-line at the link below:

Kirkwood smoking ban takes effect Saturday
By Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/30/2009

KIRKWOOD — Kirkwood is preparing to say goodbye to smoke.

The cloud of smoke and strong odor of cigarettes that greet patrons at the door of the landmark Geyer Inn will be gone Saturday.

Late-night customers at PJ’s Tavern won’t be permitted to puff on a cigarette with their Bud Light.

Smoke-filled bars, restaurants and workplaces will be no more than a memory starting Jan. 2, when a smoking ban takes effect across the city. Voters overwhelmingly approved Kirkwood’s Clean Air Act on Nov. 3.

Kirkwood will be the second St. Louis County municipality to go smoke-free; Ballwin is the other. They will be joined in July by Clayton.

The ban begins a year to the day ahead of those in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

In Jefferson County, Arnold has had a ban for several years. Illinois went smoke-free two years ago.

Saturday night will be the first big test for Kirkwood customers and businesses.

“It has been a long time coming,” said Mary Murphy-Overmann, co-chair of Healthy Air for Kirkwood, the campaign committee that pushed for the ban. “We have been so far behind the rest of the country.”

It was a far different story three years ago when Kirkwood voters defeated a smoke-free proposal. At that time, several restaurant and bar owners fought the plan, saying it was vague. This year, the ordinance was reworded, and there was no organized opposition.

“I think a lot has happened over the last few years,” said Debra Cotten, co-chair of Healthy Air for Kirkwood. “There’s a lot more demand for smoke-free places. The timing is just right.”

Cotten expects Saturday night will be a positive step.

“We’re getting out our base to support the restaurants and bars that are making this transition Saturday night and beyond that,” she said.

Kirkwood restaurant and bar owners who now permit smoking in their establishments seemed resigned to the change, but some expressed concern about going it alone for a year until the countywide ban.

Few bars or restaurants had taken any steps to prepare for Saturday’s change, although some owners were considering spiffing up their patios, where smoking will be allowed. Others talked about installing outdoor heaters for smokers.

Paul Cartier, owner of both PJ’s and the smoke-free Jefferson Grill next door, said his late-night bar crowd included some smokers.

“I think we’ll lose some, but hopefully we’ll gain some other people back,” Cartier said.

He added: “It may be tough going for a year before the rest of the county has a ban. But I think most people will get used to it. We’ll wait and see what happens, and then make adjustments.

“Three years ago, I was a lot more concerned,” he added. “It’s different now.”

Some customers who smoke said they might opt out and head to nearby suburbs without bans, such as Des Peres. At PJ’s, only two customers at the bar had lighted cigarettes one recent evening.

“I’m not a fan of the smoking ban” said Jim Fox, 23, who sat with some buddies and a pack of Parliaments.

“I go out and eat around here and don’t mind that the restaurants don’t allow smoking at dinner. But if I want to have a beer, I want a cigarette — they go hand in hand,” Fox said. “I’m not going to go someplace where I can’t smoke.”

Marty Smith, a manager at Mike Duffy’s Bar and Grill, predicted a rough first year. “When the ban goes countywide, we’ll all relax,” he said.

The biggest change may be at the old country-style tavern, the Geyer Inn, a lively place with lots of smoke and music.

“I don’t know what we can do about it;” said bartender Jacque Raffety. “Kirkwood has a strong ordinance.”

The St. Louis and St. Louis County bans next year will exempt more businesses, but Kirkwood’s rules will still apply in its city limits.

Longtime customer Mike Crawford has quit smoking but still enjoys the friendliness of the Geyer Inn. He and other customers say they’ll remain loyal, even after Saturday.

Brandon Rosenberg of Arnold said he had seen smoking bans put small bars out of business in other states. But the Geyer Inn might be different.

“People come here because they love the place,” Rosenberg said.

One of those is Gabel Richardson, a Marine just home from Iraq and Afghanistan. “I fought for our country, and I think everyone should be able to smoke,” he said.

Stacy Reliford of the American Cancer Society said the new law promotes public health:

“Kirkwood’s new smoke-free law is among the strongest in the area and will help to protect workers and customers from the known health hazards of secondhand smoke.”

Are electronic or e-cigarettes good or bad? Another viewpoint

A number of national voluntary health groups (ACS, AHA, and ALA) and others concerned about smoke-free air, primarily ANR (Americans for Nonsmokers Rights) and ASH (Action of Smoking or Health) have come out against what are called electronic or e-cigarettes, which at present are not subject to federal regulation.

Those promoting them claim they provide nicotine to the user via a delivery device that simulates smoking, but without emitting any of the harmful byproducts of conventional tobacco-based cigarettes, and therefore can be used even where conventional tobacco products are not allowed. ANR and ASH are crying foul and want them federally tested to see if they meet promoters’ claims. There is also concern that these devices circumvent or undermine smoke-free air laws, some of which have been hard-won, and could lead to public confusion.

This last point is what concerns me most: the confusion that could well ensue in enforcing smoke-free air laws if a look-alike product deemed a safe alternative is allowed.

You’ll find more information on-line, e.g. this August 3, 2009 article “Possible FDA Ban on E-Cigarettes is Wrong Move” by Hans Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Bill Godshall, Executive Director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, a grass-roots smoke-free air advocate like myself whom I’ve known and respected for many years, vigorously disagrees with these efforts to outlaw e-cigarettes. He argues that e-cigarettes really are much safer than regular cigarettes and offer a way for smokers to quit, while also not polluting the air the rest of us breathe. Bill wrote me that he had submitted several pages of public comment to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), including lots of scientific evidence, and urges anyone interested to actually read this document:

FDATobaccoRegulationComment2009

There is less than one week remaining to submit public comments to the U.S. FDA and this does appear to be an important public health issue about which we should be informed. Below is a summary of Bill’s arguments submitted to the FDA and following that comments he sent me in two recent e-mails. (Note: NRT = Nicotine Replacement Therapy).

Bill Godshall’s e-mail dated December 21, 2009 to his anonymous list:

There is just one week remaining (Monday, December 28, is the deadline) to submit public comments to the US FDA on tobacco regulations at http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480a34db4

For more information about FDA tobacco regulations, go to http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm

In public comments submitted on September 28 (attached), Smokefree Pennsylvania urged the FDA to:

– truthfully inform smokers and the public that smokefree tobacco/nicotine products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes, and that millions of smokers have already reduced their health risks by switching to smokefree tobacco/nicotine products,

– eliminate the misleading “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes” warning on smokeless products,

– eliminate the unsubstantiated “This product may cause mouth cancer” warning from snus and other low nitrosamine smokeless products,

– require a warning on all cigarette packs stating “Smokefree tobacco and nicotine products are less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes”,

– evaluate and publish the relative and comparable health risks of different tobacco/nicotine products,

– establish stricter standers for “modified risk” and “reduced exposure” claims for cigarettes than for smokefree tobacco products,

– oppose cigarette emission standards, as they would perpetuate the safer cigarette fraud because humans smoke differently than machines,

– require a warning on all cigarette packs stating “There is no such thing as a safer cigarette, as all cigarettes are similarly hazardous”,

– approve NY State Health Commissioner Daines’ petition to make NRT more accessible and affordable to smokers, and to change NRT pack warnings to provide comparable health benefit and risk information about NRT use versus continued cigarette use,

– approve temporary and long term usage of NRT products for smokers and other tobacco users,

– inform smokers and the public that most exsmokers have quit cold turkey (not by using NRT or Rx products),

– redefine electronic cigarettes as a new category of tobacco products, and propose reasonable and responsible e-cigarette regulations,

– acknowledge huge declines in youth tobacco usage during past decade, and FDA’s statutory and constitutional limitations to further reduce youth tobacco usage,

– oppose banning menthol cigarettes, as doing so would create a huge black market, and

– oppose bannning flavorings/additives in cigars or smokefree tobacco products.

Bill Godshall also wrote me directly:

“Regarding e-cigarettes, since they don’t emit any smoke, CO or other hazardous gases, there is no rationale reason for banning their usage in workplaces (especially in the privacy one’s office or work station). E-cigarettes are nearly identical to FDA approved nicotine inhalers (as smoking cessation aids), and aren’t at all like Premier and Eclipse, which emitted large amounts of CO.

The real reasons why ASH, ANR, [New Jersey] GASP and others have advocated banning e-cigarettes in all workplaces is because Banzhaf, Frick, Blumenfeld and others don’t want to be reminded of cigarettes, don’t give a damn about the health of e-cigarette users (all of whom recently quit smoking) or about the health of millions of other smokers who can quit by switching to e-cigarettes. E-cigarette users and smokers who are trying to quit need help, encouragement and support by public health advocates, not discrimination, harassment and ostracism.”

“What happened was (as I delineated in my comments to FDA) that several FDA officials grossly misrepresented the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (after I and others sent them lots of scientific evidence about e-cigarettes). Then, some less than ethical anti-tobacco activists decided that it was OK for them to also misrepresent the scientific evidence about e-cigarettes.

When tens of thousands of exsmokers publicly state that they quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes, it is unethical for anyone to claim that “there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation aids”. But that’s precisely what happened.

And after a half dozen laboratory studies/reports (including one conducted by the FDA) found that at least 99% of e-cigarette emissions are tiny amounts of just two chemicals (i.e. propylene glycol and nicotine) that aren’t hazardous to users or other people (compared to 10,000 chemicals and lots of air particulates in cigarette smoke), it is unethical for anyone to claim that e-cigarettes pose health risks to users and nonusers. But that’s what happened.

And when there is no evidence that any youth or nonsmoker has ever gotten addicted to an e-cigarette, it is unethical for anyone to claim that e-cigarettes are being target marketed to youth to get them addicted. But that’s what happened.

Bronson Frick (ANR) acknowledged to me (on a phone call the day after ANR redefined “smoking” as including e-cigarette usage in its model smokefree ordinance) that he hadn’t actually read any of the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (that I had repeatedly sent him during the past year) and that he hadn’t communicated with any e-cigarette company or user before he/ANR decided to change its policy and begin advocating to ban e-cigarette usage in all worklplaces.

And when I asked John Banzhaf (head of ASH) why he was misrepresenting the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes, he said he wasn’t a scientist and that he was simply repeating what some FDA officials said.

And when I asked Karen Blumenfeld (Executive Director, New Jersey GASP) why she was grossly misrepresenting the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes (by telling elected officials in NJ that e-cigarettes emitted tobacco smoke just like real cigarettes, and caused health problems to nonusers), she got defensive, refused to answer any of my questions, and instead asked that I show respect for her and GASP.”

Fox 2 News interview 12/16/2009: Lambert Airport’s smoke-free future. How will smokers cope?

Fox 2 News anchor, Ms. Randi Naughton, interviewed Martin Pion, Missouri GASP president, at around 7:20 am today (Wednesday, December 15, 2009) about Lambert Airport’s smoking rooms and how smokers would cope without them.

Ald. Lyda Krewson

Come January 2011, Lambert’s smoking rooms will close as part of the recently-enacted St. Louis City smoke-free air ordinance, sponsored by Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, Ward 28. The city ordinance was dependent on a similar St. Louis County ordinance being adopted by public vote, which happened when county voters approved Proposition N by a 2 to 1 margin on November 3, 2009.

Please click following link to watch video (wait for it to load fully before playing): ktvi-lambert-smoking-ban-debate-121609

Below are some screen shots from the video, plus one from a demonstration outside St. Louis city hall staged on July 13, 1996:

Fox 2 news anchor Randi Naughton interviewing Martin Pion, president MoGASP

Sign created for demo. outside St. Louis city hall (see image from TV below), staged on July 13, 1996

Martin Pion donning half-face respirator for demonstration purposes. It was also used for protection against secondhand smoke when still allowed on airplanes and throughout airports

Smoke-Busters (from left) Pat Obrist, Martin Pion, Jim Elliott, & Candy McCandliss in demo. supporting smoke-free Lambert Airport petition outside St. Louis city hall, July 13, 1996

MoGASP City Hall pro smoke-free Lambert-St. Louis Airport demo. 7/13/1996

TRANSCRIPT

The following transcript and video clips are of a KMOV-TV [CBS] St. Louis News Channel 4 segment broadcast Saturday, July 13, 1996, at around 6:00 pm. Length: 1 min. 58 sec.

Content:
Missouri GASP [Group Against Smoking Pollution] protest outside St. Louis City Hall organized in support of a smoke-free Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, containing interviews with protesters and airport smokers.

Participants:
Larry Connors and Julius Hunter, local news co-anchors
Wendy Roylance, local reporter
Martin Pion, president, Missouri GASP, interviewed outside City Hall wearing a disposable white coverall and industrial safety respirator with dual purple cannisters
Candy McCandliss, GASP supporter, intervieweed outside City Hall wearing the same coverall but blue face mask. [Also pictured was similarly clad GASP member Jim Elliot, and GASP supporter Pat Obrist.]
Two smokers, Steve Newman and Shirley Delmas, were interviewed at Lambert Airport.

Anchors Julius Hunter (L) and Larry Connors


Connors: The question of public smoking is sparking some new controversy in St. Louis.


Hunter: At issue this time: Should Lambert International be smoke-free? Wendy Roylance shows us some protesters choosing a rather dramatic way of voicing their opinions.



Roylance: [off camera]
These white jump suits and masks look like something you’d see at a dioxin cleanup site. Instead, anti-smoking protesters are wearing them in front of St. Louis City Hall. 


[Shot of GASP protesters on sidewalk outside city hall holding placards. Closeup of Pion wearing suit and respirator.]


They want Lambert International Airport smoke-free.



[Closeup of sign on back of protester with GASP logo and words “Smoke Busters.” Smoker sitting in airport in front of “Smoking Area” sign]




Pion: [In interview with Roylance while holding respirator down to speak]


I wear this in an airport, I’ve worn this in an airport. It’s got a HEPA filter for taking out particulates, and its got a, an activated charcoal filter for taking out gases, but it doesn’t, it’s not a 100%. A lot of it still gets through.



Roylance: [off camera]
 Right now, open smoking is allowed in 7 areas of the airport, but protesters say there should be no smoking anywhere.

[Shot of wall sign titled SMOKING PERMITTED IN DESIGNATED SMOKING AREAS; shot of smokers smoking in designated smoking area.]



McCandliss: [in interview with Roylance with face mask pulled down around neck]



Many, many buildings are now smokefree. It can be done and, er, er and I think the aiport should do it.



Roylance: [moving to stand in front of “Smoking Area” sign in airport]


Lambert airport officials tell News 4 there are no plans to make the airport smoke-free, but they are considering adding smoking lounges to isolate the smokers. Smoker Steve Newman says he shouldn’t have to go to a smoking lounge to smoke.




Newman: [in interview with Roylance while standing in airport concourse]

It ain’t really right, but I, I can respect someone that don’t want to smell it, but they oughta respect somebody that does want to have one too.



Roylance: [shot of Delmas seated next to Roylance (with back to camera), then in closeup ]

Shirley Delmas says she would use a smoking lounge only if she has to.



Delmas: If the smoking lounges would be, er, close to each concourse, er, I think that might work alright and that would satisfy everybody.



Roylance: [off camera]
Seven smoking lounges will be built at the airport by November.

[Smoker shown lighting up, followed by shot of baggage]

Protesters say that’s still not right. They say they won’t stop until Lambert Airport is smoke-free.

[Shot of Pion holding respirator, followed by closeup of GASP banner draped over seat in front of city hall.]



McCandliss: [in interview with Roylance with face mask pulled down around neck]


I would like to think that St. Louis would be up to that kind of progress, yes.



Roylance: [off camera, over closeup of Delmas lighting cigarette in designated smoking area.]

At Lambert Airport, Wendy Roylance, News 4.



Hunter: The Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution plans to present an airport smoking petition to St. Louis City officials in the near future.


Text of Missouri GASP press release:

[The following is based on the text of a press release sent to the main St. Louis area media, including all four major TV stations, KMOX and KWMU [NPR] radio stations, the Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Riverfront Times [main alternative newspaper], and the Suburban Journals. All TV stations covered the event, as did KMOX and its rival WIBV.

The print media were totally absent. The Post-Dispatch could not even be persuaded to send a photographer for a “photo-op,” despite GASP members returning in the afternoon, suitably garbed, to provide one for the newspaper, which is just a few blocks away.]

*** EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE 10:00 A.M. Friday, July 12, 1996. ***

PRESS RELEASE
Missouri GASP volunteers dressed in decontamination suits and masks will mount a protest outside St. Louis City Hall. The suits are to emphasize that permitting the low temperature burning of tobacco leaves in Lambert-St. Louis International airport is as appropriate as locating a dioxin incinerator there.

BACKGROUND: In April 1993, the tobacco lobby, working behind the scenes with then-County Councilman John Shear, was instrumental in killing a proposed St. Louis County Council ordinance to make Lambert-St. Louis airport essentially smoke-free. [Shear subsequently received a $1,000 donation from the Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC, for his unsuccessful Missouri Senate campaign.] Since then Missouri GASP, together with Ms. Vivian Dietemann, a smoke-sensitive asthmatic, have been working to rid the airport of tobacco smoke.

In 1993 and 1994 respectively, Ms. Dietemann and GASP filed separate complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice. The complaints alleged denial of access to the airport for breathing disabled individuals with sensitivity to tobacco smoke, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. (The ADA went into effect on January 26, 1992.) Cited in our complaints were the City of St. Louis [airport owner], the Airport Commission [airport governing body], and St. Louis County Council [which has jurisdiction due to the airport’s location].

The airport authority tacitly acknowledged that Ms. Dietemann is being denied access when it provided a police car to take her from the sidewalk outside the main terminal around the outside of the airport to her departing flight on the tarmac on November 4, 1995 (see photos. overpage). (Ironically, the occasion was an event featuring tobacco industry victims [both living and deceased] to which she had been invited, taking place in Washington, DC. The invitation came from INFACT, an advocacy group which has launched an international boycott of tobacco subsidiary products as part of its campaign against the industry’s continued marketing of tobacco products to children, and their intervention in legislative efforts to protect the public from the harmful effects of their products.)

The airport maintains that it does accommodate non-smokers and is not in violation of the ADA. However, it has never conducted a self-evaluation involving those with breathing disabilities, such as Ms. Dietemann, in concert with Missouri GASP which represents such individuals, as required by the ADA, despite having done so for other covered groups, such as paraplegics.

The recent response of the airport that it would install smoking lounges and then declare the rest of the airport non-smoking is unacceptable. The proposed rooms, with makeup air entering through an open doorway, will not prevent back-streaming of tobacco smoke toxins and carcinogens into the adjoining parts of the airport. In addition, the airport should go smoke-free immediately, to provide access for those whose lives are currently disrupted by their present policy, and thus come into ADA compliance.

[Here the original press release showed photos taken outside the airport in November 1995 featuring Ms. Dietemann wearing a safety respirator while waiting to board her flight. It also showed GASP volunteers dressed as “Smoke Busters” gathering petition signatures in favor of a smoke-free airport in November and December, 1995]

GASP’s ADA claim, originally submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice on July 13, 1994, named Ms. Dietemann, St. Louis, MO, and Ms. Patricia L. Young, a flight attendant from Dallas, TX. In May of this year GASP added Mr. Don Young from St. Charles, MO, to its list of those claiming denial of access to the airport. He is a laryngectomy survivor who cannot tolerate tobacco smoke. GASP’s claim has been in the hands of the regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Civil Rights [DOCR], Kansas City, MO, since late 1994/early 1995. That office has shown itself incompetent and foot-dragging. Following a recent Freedom of Information Act request from Missouri GASP the DOCR was unable to provide us with the original request from its Washington, DC, office requesting that they investigate this complaint.

Mr. David Genter [tel: 816 426 5006/ fax: 816 426 2261], DBE [Disadvantaged Business Enterprises] Program Manager, DOCR in Kansas City, MO, is handling our complaint. A certified/return receipt request letter asking for a speedy resolution and a response within 20 days has still gone unanswered after having been received by Mr. Genter on May 13. During a subsequent phone call Mr. Genter sidetracked by asking what the airport would be expected to do if a breathing-disabled person complained about jet fumes while in a shuttle bus. [Jet fuel is a necessary part of an airport’s operation, tobacco smoke is not.]

According to the 1995 Airports Council International North America Smoking Policy Survey, a number of major airports are already totally smoke-free, including Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s largest, and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Kansas City International Airport, MO, is also included in this tally.

Transcript of Mark Reardon’s KMOX Radio Prop N debate, 10/26/09

Back on October 26, 2009, Chris Sommers, owner of Pi Pizzeria, and I faced off against Bill Hannegan and Gary Voss on the Mark Reardon Show on KMOX Radio. Hannegan maintains the blog KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE and Voss is Executive Director of the Bowling Proprietor’s Association of St. Louis. The live link to the broadcast, which lasts 26 minutes, is at: http://podcast.kmox.com/kmox2/2025839.mp3

Recently, someone wrote me that a comment I made during this broadcast had provided a strong rebuttal to Hannegan’s ventilation claims, but I couldn’t remember having made it. That prompted me to go back and listen to the broadcast and I ended up transcribing it in its entirety.

Reading my transcript of what I said at the time is somewhat embarrassing. When I write something I typically review it several times and may edit it heavily before I’m satisfied. When you’re on the air live that’s not possible, and that is evident upon reading the transcript. Anyway, despite that drawback, this is what was suggested as being a good rebuttal to Hannegan’s ventilation claims:

…. when you smoke in an indoor place you’re polluting the air that everybody has to breathe. … There is no ventilation solution. I know that Bill believes this [i.e. that there’s a ventilation solution]. He’s not a scientist. I am. We’ve done measurements, and had independent measurements done, of the various ventilation systems that are out there that are supposed to work. Even in places where they’ve got separate rooms with separate ventilation systems, the smoke can still get into the non-smoking areas, and that’s because of the science of secondhand smoke.

My entire transcription of the broadcast is pasted below, after having checked and corrected it numerous times while listening to the broadcast referenced above. There may still be small discrepancies but it’s now very close to the original. You can judge that for yourself and if you find any significant omissions or errors please let me know.

Transcript of Mark Reardon Show, KMOX Radio, broadcast live from 2:10 pm to a little before 3:00 pm on October 26, 2009.

Mike Reardon KMOX Radio Show host preparing to go on-air

Mike Reardon KMOX Radio Show host preparing to go on-air

Mark Reardon, after opening music:

I’m not used to having a full studio on a Monday. We’re gonna get right into this hour. We have sort of the Monday version of what we do on Friday’s Round Table because Proposition N is coming up which would ban smoking on a certain amount of businesses on the November ballot in St. Louis County and we didn’t really even cover this: I know the news department did over the weekend, but the City did vote, and the Board of Aldermen did on Friday, to go along with this. So if the County passes the smoking ban St. Louis City will also have a ban.

Let me introduce everyone that’s in the studio here, and see if I can get around the table. Bill Hannegan is head of KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE, he’s been on the show before. Hi Bill, how are yer?

Bill Hannegan, KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE, & Bill Voss, Bowling Assn. (on R)

Bill Hannegan (BH): How’re you doing Mark?

Mark Reardon (MR): Welcome back to KMOX. Good to see you. Gary Voss is the Executive Director of the Bowling Proprietor’s Association of St. Louis. Gary, how are you?

Gary Voss (GV): I’m doing fine, Mark.

MR: You have a couple of different bowling alleys here, in Ellisville and in Pacific as well. Welcome.

Pion & Sommers at Mike Reardon Show, KMOX

Martin Pion, MOGASP President, and Chris Sommers, Pi Restaurant (on right)

Martin Pion, the President of MoGASP, which, you want to tell me what that stands for Martin?

Martin Pion (MP): Missouri GASP: Group Against Smoking Pollution.

MR: Group Against Smoking Pollution. And Chris Sommers, who is the owner of President Obama’s favorite pizza place, if I’m not mistaken. How are you, Chris?

Chris Sommers (CS): I’m very good. Thanks for having me.

MR: You have two locations now, right?

CS: We do. We just opened our second location on Manchester four days ago.

MR: I don’t see any pies in hand right now.
[MP: Mark was alluding to the name of Chris’s Pi Pizzeria.]
I’m a little disappointed but I’ll, I’ll let you go on that.

CS: I did bring you down one to one of your colleagues, Mr. Carney …

MR: That’s because he has a pay-to-play policy! We don’t have that here on the Mark Reardon Show. I’m just kidding. Anyway, thanks for coming in.

Let me, um. I’ll just start with you Martin, because we’ve had these discussions before. I will tell you just a personal story. I was in Columbia over the weekend for homecoming on Friday night and Saturday night, out and about, for the Mizzou game. Outside of the game I had a great time, the game wasn’t very fun, but in Columbia, Missouri, a town that I spend a lot of time in, they have a smoking ban.

As a nonsmoker, and I’ve admitted this before in the past, so we’ll get to the anti side here in a second, I like it just from the standpoint that I don’t have to smell like smoke, because I’m not a smoker. Now I do have some concerns about this from a business perspective, um, but why do you think the time is right to have this in St. Louis County?

MP: The time is right because we’ve been waiting 23 years for it. I think that’s a long time to wait. We should have had this back when the Surgeon General’s Report, this one came out in 1986.
[MP holding up report in studio]
That was conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke was harmful to nonsmokers, exposed healthy nonsmokers; caused an estimated 3,000 to 3,500 lung cancer deaths a year in the U.S.; couldn’t be dealt with by separating smokers; and nonsmokers, and caused a lot of asthma as well. I mean, it was already a major health issue, identified as such, back in 1986. We’re now 2009. In my view, we’ve been waiting 23 years too long.

MR: Chris, you’re a business owner. Is Pi smoke-free right now?

CS: Of course it is. Yes!

MR: You, you made the decision as a business owner, to not allow smoking in your establishment.

CS: Absolutely no-brainer!

MR: OK. And I respect that. I think that business owners should have the right to do that. Why should the government, though, because you support Proposition N, why should the government tell you, as a business owner, that you can or can’t have smoking?

CS: Well, I like to use the analogy of health codes and sanitation in my restaurant. You know, back in the ‘60s before St. Louis County mandated adherence to health codes in restaurants it was optional. So can you imagine walking into a restaurant that you did or did not know whether or not they were being investigated and whether or not they had to adhere to certain standards? It’s the exact same thing. Smoking on airplanes. Yea, it was very controversial when we dropped smoking from airplanes, but now we look back on it and say “Oh my God, can you believe that they actually allowed smoking on airplanes?”

MR: Well, most people, younger people wouldn’t even imagine. I mean, I tell the story every once in a while because I’ve been in this business for long enough, people used to smoke in radio studios. It wasn’t very good for the equipment.

Bill Hannegan, we’ve had these conversations before and you still do not like this. KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE is the group. So, in response to what Martin and Chris are saying here, you know, it seems to me and I’ve said this before Bill, no matter how you feel, it almost seems inevitable, could be wrong, that most people don’t like smoking and they’re gonna go out on election day and say we don’t wanna have smoking in these restaurants and, for the most part, bars, and we’ll get to some of the particulars in the exemptions, which I think is controversial. So what’s wrong with this, Bill?

BH: Well, I believe the business owner has the right to allow the use of a legal product on his private property and if the business owner will allow smoking in his private property the citizens have the freedom to patronize that establishment, or work in that establishment, and technology’s available that can make the air in that establishment, even though smoking is allowed, cleaner than the air outdoors, and I think that’s sufficient. I think at that point private property rights kick in.

CS: You speak about Herbie’s perhaps, on Euclid. I’m opening a restaurant across the street from there. It’s actually one of my hangouts and I’m good friends with the owners of that restaurant as well, and they know, and I know very well, that very frequently I have to move because that Marth Brothers system is extremely ineffective, absolutely ineffective …

MR: This is the ventilation system?

CS: Yes. It does not clean the air. It still wafts directly to the person next to you. It may make a slight improvement but it has ruined many a meal there for me, yet I still want to go there because I like them, I like the atmosphere, I like the food but I don’t want my experience ruined by somebody who has blatant disregard for people around them who lights up a cigarette.

BH: Well, a manager who works there tells me that she can work 8 hours at Herbie’s and come home at night and her hair does not smell like smoke, and her clothes don’t smell like smoke. She’s the employee, these laws are meant to protect employees, and she’s very happy with the system. She feels protected. She feels comfortable. And that’s what important.

MR: Hang on, hang on just a second Chris and Martin, I want to get your response, but Gary, I want to get your response as a business owner. We’ve heard about bowling alleys. One area that I agree with your side on in particular is that the casinos are exempt from this but other establishments may not be. You think that you’re unfairly being not singled out in that situation.

GV: Oh, absolutely. How can they put a bill to St. Louis County, all the public out there, and say this is a health bill, this is for health. And turn around and say, yea, but this part, it’s OK to work at a casino and get sick; it’s OK to go to the casino and breathe secondhand smoke, but you can’t go to other places. Our bowling industry has spent thousands and thousands of dollars. We addressed the smoking situation 20 years ago and we made arrangements in our own bowling centers, We have non-smoking areas throughout our entire bowling area. The only thing we’re asking for is to have an area that we can build for smoking. St. Louis County is saying you must be totally ….

MR: Under this ordinance you would not?

GV: No, absolutely not. Under this ordinance we are totally involved in the ban. We are actually a new betting that we come under, er, now we’re a sports arena, according to the definition of the bill, it doesn’t come anywhere near. Not one other business in that definition has a lounge.

MR: Martin, why is it that the casinos are exempt? I think to a certain extent this is a rhetorical question: there’s a lot of power, a lot of lobbying there, and I’ve talked to Barb Fraser extensively about the way that this legislation was crafted and they couldn’t get everyone on board if the casinos were not exempt here, but it doesn’t seem like it’s fair to other business owners.

MP: No, I agree, it isn’t fair, and we didn’t support these exemptions. We worked very hard to make sure there weren’t any exemptions. We were working for a bill that was comparable to Americans for Nonsmokers Rights model ordinance. That only allows two exemptions: private residences, and 20% of hotel/motel guest rooms. That’s what we would have liked. In fact, we were looking for a bill without even exempting hotel/motel rooms. We said, why should you even do that? And, unfortunately, Barbara Fraser couldn’t get the four votes she needed for that. And so, we’re stuck with what we’ve got. I’ve looked at this closely. I figure that this is going to give about 95% of public places and workplaces, and the people who work in those locations, protection from secondhand smoke. So, I’ve been persuaded that this is a bill we should support, even with the exemptions, and assuming it passes on November 3rd, that’s what we’re hoping, we’re not gonna leave it there. We’re coming back and we’re gonna try and get these exemptions removed. I’m hoping there will be strong support for this bill so the county council won’t feel afraid to come back and revisit it.

MR: Chris, let me ask you, as a business owner, and you have to have conversations with other business owners on The Loop, do you feel that, even though you personally have taken a stand and justifiably so on smoking in your establishment, what about business owners like Gary and others that want to have smokers allowed? Do you think it’s unfair to them at all?

GS: Not really. I wouldn’t be absolutely opposed to a mantrapped smoking lounge in a bowling alley. I do think exemptions at all are wrong, but as Martin said, this is what we’ve got and this is what we have to get behind. But I know that most bar owners are for statewide, certainly. They don’t want people going across city lines, county lines, but, at the same time, I feel like if smoking is the only thing you’ve got going, or the only atmosphere that you have in your place, if that is mission-critical to the success of your business, perhaps you need to choose a new business. And I just can’t imagine that that is really a deal-breaker when people point to all these studies in Illinois and elsewhere where there’s been a downturn in business. I mean, it’s equally proportionate to the downturn in every business due to the economy.

MR: I want to talk about that. We’ll pick up on that note and get everyone involved here. Bill Hannegan, the head of KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE, Gary Voss, the Executive Director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of St. Louis. They’re both opposed to Proposition N, which is the smoking ban that county voters will decide upon next week. Martin Pion, President of MoGASP, and Chris Sommer is the owner of Pi, two locations, and is in favor of the ban as well. Hang on….

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Mark Reardon (MR): Good afternoon, and we’re talking about Proposition N, which is the smoking ban that’ll be on the ballot in St. Louis County and will have an effect on St. Louis City as well because, if it passes, the city will also ban smoking.

Bill Hannegan, the head of KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE, Gary Voss, the Director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of St. Louis, Martin Pion, the President of MoGASP, and Chris Sommer, who owns Pi Restaurant on Delmar and now on Manchester and is a proponent.

Bill, and we’ve had these discussions but I want you to have at these differences of opinion, Chris brought this up a few minutes ago, how this would affect businesses, and how it has affected businesses in other communities, whether it’s in St. Louis or in Illinois where they have a smoking ban, so I’m worried because I want to see businesses succeed. I do think it’s more fair to do these when it’s statewide, so you can’t cross a county line or a state line, but from that perspective, what is your opinion on how the businesses are affected? I have a feeling we’re going to differ from Martin’s view here.

BH: We had a University of Wisconsin economist, Dr. Chad Cotti, who specializes in studying the effects of smoking bans, take a look at St. Louis City and he predicts that a city-county smoking ban, even though it’s passed in both the city and the county, would cut bar employment in St. Louis City 19.7%, that’s 1 in 5 bar jobs would go, and this is what’s based on what’s happened in the rest of the country. He’s done national studies of the effects of smoking bans on bar and restaurant employment.

You know, I really trust the restaurant and bar owners when they tell me what effect its had on their business. When the smoking ban went into effect in Ballwin, Elsa Barr told me that her business was down 35% and that she would have to relocate outside of Ballwin when her lease was up.

Harry Belli, who had Harry’s West, told me that his business was down 15% after the start of the smoking ban and his business was no longer profitable, and he had to close his doors, and his 40 employees lost their jobs

Federal Reserve economist, Dr. Michael Pakko, and other Federal Reserve economists, have looked at the Illinois situation and they found that the Illinois smoking ban cost the State of Illinois 200 million dollars in tax revenue.

MR: Lemme stop you right there, because I don’t discount the figures from Ballwin but if you have a county-wide smoking ban, and you now have the city, are you saying that the smokers are just not going to go out?

BH: Right. They tend to stay home. A smoker like me, I smoke when I go out to a bar. If I can’t smoke in the bar, I stay home. I don’t complain. If a business owner, of his free choice, wants to ban smoking in his bar, that’s fine, but, I won’t be there.

CS: What about all the people who don’t, don’t, go out because they can’t stand the smoke? We continually forget about them and they talk to me ad nauseam about how appreciative they are, whether it’s my restaurant or any other restaurant that is nonsmoking. And you know, I hear that most of my employees smoke and many of my regular bar patrons smoke and they tell me they appreciate it too. They just go outside to have a cigarette. And so the economic downside, or the fact that fewer people are going to come out is absolutely absurd.

MR: Isn’t there a flip side though? For people who would …. and I do think there is something to this, as a nonsmoker.

MP: What about people who don’t go to the restaurants and places where there’s smoking. Exactly what Chris said and what Bill is ignoring. We always see the negative side because those are people you can count easily, but you can’t count the people who stay at home because of the smoking. It’s probably a neutral situation. Realistically, although there are many more nonsmokers now than smokers in the adult population – it’s 75% don’t smoke now – but I would say in terms of the number of people for whom it’s a real issue it’s probably about the same number of nonsmokers as smokers who are not going ….

MR: But lemme ask you this, Martin, because on the flip side of that we’re in a very tough economic time, I don’t think anybody can deny that. There are statistics out there that small businesses in Illinois and casinos have been affected by this. I think the Missouri casinos have been the beneficiaries of that, so why, at this time in particular, pass an ordinance like this. This is what I think Bill would, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think other people and business owners, and Gary, you can chime in here, say, wait a second, this is a time when we should be adding jobs: this could hurt businesses.

GV: I have a question: Why would you want to go to a place that has smoking if you don’t smoke?

MR: Because you may not have a choice.

GV: Right. We have a choice in our centers. We have areas where you can smoke. We have “Non Smoking” days. We have non smoking leagues. We never have an event in our bowling centers where a child’s involved where we have smoking in the center. So we do police ourselves. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and all of a sudden we’re going to say “You can’t have smoking explicitly.” I would lose 30%, not just me but my bowling centers across the country, this is a national number, We would lose 30% approximately, of bowlers at our centers.

You know, some teams have one bowler that’s a smoker and four non-smokers and that smoker won’t go in another room and smoke a cigarette and everyone would be happy, because we do have the ventilation, because our places are zoned. Our rooms are all completely different. You have to come and visit us to appreciate what we have. So I should tell all my customers, 35 or 40%, get out of the bar because Mr. Jones wants to come and have a beer. Well that’s just not the way the world works.

MR: Martin, you want to respond to that?

MP: Well, beer and smoking are rather different, aren’t they? I mean, when you smoke in an indoor place you’re polluting the air that everybody has to breathe. I don’t see the connection. There is no ventilation solution. I know that Bill believes this [i.e. that there’s a ventilation solution]. He’s not a scientist. I am. We’ve done measurements, and had independent measurements done, of the various ventilation systems that are out there that are supposed to work. Even in places where they’ve got separate rooms with separate ventilation systems, the smoke can still get into the non-smoking areas, and that’s because of the science of secondhand smoke.

MR: You don’t deny that ventilation systems have made things a lot better though, do you?

MP: Here’s the thing though. I’m not saying that they don’t make things better, but we’re talking about a smoke-free environment, and to suggest that this is a smoke-free environment, it’s a safe environment: That’s just not true.

MR: What’s the rule – because I don’t have the specific part of the ordinance, I do have the ordinance in front of me – under the ordinance, if smoking is banned, where can people go to smoke? They can go outside of the business, right? I want to focus on the businesses in St. Louis County.

GV: In the ordinance, your entranceways, you can’t even smoke in your entranceways, based on this ordinance. We will be totally non-smoking. This would be OK if all the other across the state at one time came through and said there’s no smoking. We have bowling centers in St. Louis County. There’s St. Charles County, there’s Franklin County, and there’s Jefferson County that butt up to St. Louis County. Our bowlers would go there and the 21 bowling centers in St. Louis County should not have to give up their revenue because a group of people decided that there’d be no smoking in bowling centers.

MR: Gary, were you close to getting an exemption for the bowling centers in this legislation or not?

GV: No! They won’t even address us. We’ve been to all three hearings. We went previous years, two years ago and the county council won’t even address us.

MR: So you feel this is unfair to your industry in particular?

GV. Absolutely!

MR: Martin, on that note, on the health, the reason I was bringing this up where you can smoke is because there is the potential that if you allow smoking outside people are still going to inhale some smoke if they’re going by cigarette smokers.

MP: Yeh, well, we recommend that you don’t allow smoking near entrances to avoid that situation. This argument is a false argument to some extent. It was used to, in part, by a county councilman to defeat a 1993 ordinance that was gonna make the airport smoke-free. He was saying, well, if you have all these smokers around entrances isn’t that even worse than allowing smoking inside the airport where they’re more spread out? That’s an absolutely absurd argument and it’s a tobacco industry argument, frankly. It’s an argument that’s designed to obstruct progress on this issue. It’s not designed to protect nonsmokers.

MR: Bill, on the basic premise of your argument, and this is one of the areas that I’ve agreed in the past, is that you say it’s a freedom issue. Is that correct?

BH: It’s a freedom issue and it’s a property rights issue. I believe that the business owner has the right to allow the use of a legal product on his private property. I don’t believe personally that that’s an absolute right. I think it’s reasonable for government to step in and say, hey, you gotta put in ventilation to deal with the smoke, filtration, perhaps even restrict the access of people under 21. But I think these absolute smoking bans go too far. And I also want to point out that St. Louis is a big town. There are possibilities for all types of places, places that allow smoking, and places that ban smoking. I don’t see why we have to have all one type of business.

MR: Is the American Heart Association, and the Cancer Society and the Lung Association supporting this or not, because they did argue against. And they’re not because they don’t think it went far enough because of the exemptions?

MP: Yes, and that’s their argument, but, and before this bill was approved we were on the same side, we were arguing the same way. Look, why should you allow any of these exemptions? We didn’t think it was reasonable to do that. Now what we’ve got is a bill coming up for a vote on November 3rd. We’ve looked at it closely. We’ve decided that, because it does cover so many places. I mean look, this gentleman is arguing that it covers him. Well, OK, that’s good! It means we can go to your bowling place now if we want to and not have to contend with secondhand smoke.

GV: You won’t do it.

MP: I’m not saying I go bowling but I’m saying I could once this bill is approved. Bear in mind the fact, by the way, you’re talking about the economic issue. This doesn’t go into effect until 2011. By then the economy’s going to be completely different. We don’t know what it’s going to be by 2011.

MR: It could be worse.

MP: It could be worse, but you know, the other thing is when you talk about a health issue you don’t, are we talking about a health issue with H1N1? Are we saying the economy’s too bad to spend money on antiviral injections or anything? No!

MR: But Martin, where do you stop when it comes to the health issue?

MP: That’s a poor argument.

MR: No, it’s not a poor argument. You mentioned beer. He serves beer. Alcohol’s a problem. You have fat-laden burgers in your business?

GV: Look at a soda! You’d better be careful about soda.

MR: There’s all kinds of things that cause health problems.

MP: This is a dumb argument, and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s linking one health issue with a totally unrelated issue. I’m just interested in going to a place and be protected from secondhand smoke. I want to be able to go about my life, whether it’s at the workplace or another ….

MR: One of the things that secondhand smoke causes is heart disease, right?

MP: This is the slippery slope argument, really it is. I’m just interested in secondhand smoke. If public health authorities want to tackle greasy burgers that’s up to them. I’m not gonna worry about it.

MR: Hang on, we’re going to take another quick break. We’re coming back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

MR: Oh, man, the debates that are going on here. We should have had the KMOX off-air mikes going here for the debates in the studio!

Bill, you think this is potentially unconstitutional?

BH: Yes, I think it is, I think it violates the special laws clause of the Missouri Constitution and the special treatment that it gives to the casinos. Casinos are a closed-ended class of business. That means by law there can be only so many casinos in Missouri and the Missouri Constitution forbids government to give special privileges to that class of businesses.

MR: Do you think there’s anything to that Martin?

MP: Well, um, Bill just lost another legal battle, or was part of a group that just lost another legal battle. They were challenging whether it was constitutional for local municipalities to pass bills, any ordinance, that was stronger than the state law, and we knew from year’s ago when we looked into this that this was perfectly constitutional. So I’m going to bet that this fails as well, personally.

MR: Chris, we were having a discussion during the commercial break about, being as a business owner you would know these things, I’m just curious to get your thoughts because the argument is this is a health issue and I raised the question, well, what other analogies you can come up with, and I think maybe you did, a situation where government is trying to ban something that is a legal product.
Well, you said the government can regulate the temperature in the restaurant. Is that true?

CS: Absolutely. Everybody, at least on every shift in my restaurant, somebody has to be what’s called serve-safe certified, so they know the proper food storage temperatures. They know to make sure to keep cleaners and contaminants away from food product. I just went through this and I know what a headache it is to adhere to all this and how very very expensive it is at times to adhere to codes that help keep the public safe in restaurants. And this just goes one step further about keeping the public safe, and yes, I have an “A” in my window that tells me I have passed this. But should guests have to go and look to see whether restaurants allow smoking or not before they enter it? It’s not …

MR: OK, we’re short on time, I’ll ask the final question. Bill, do you have a website for KEEP St. LOUIS FREE?

BH: Yes, Google KEEP St. LOUIS FREE.

MR: And what about you guys, Martin?

MP: mogasp.wordpress.com

MR: Alright, thanks for coming. Gary, thanks for coming, and Chris I appreciate. We’re out of time.

Tobacco-Free Mo St. Louis Holiday Luncheon

A luncheon meeting was held on Thursday, December 10, 2009, at St. Louis University’s Boileau Hall, in midtown St. Louis, attended by many of those active in the recent smoke-free air success stories in the area. It was organized by Pat Lindsey who has been heavily engaged in local efforts for many years, and leads the Tobacco-Free Missouri Greater St. Louis Coalition which hosted the event. Pat is the Program Director, Tobacco Prevention Center, in the Saint Louis University School of Public Health, e-mail: lindseyp@slu.edu and website: www.tobaccofreemo.org.

Everyone present was given the opportunity to introduce themselves, and Stacy Reliford of the American Cancer Society, St. Louis, then gave a roundup of this year’s new ordinances in Kirkwood and Clayton, and mentioned the Washington University campus, which is due to go smoke-free on July 10, 2010, to coincide with the effective date of the City of Clayton ordinance.

Plaques in recognition of the achievements this past year were presented to St. Louis County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, and Charley Gatton, chairman of County Citizens for Cleaner Air. Plaques were presented in absentia to Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein and St. Louis City Alderwoman Lyda Krewson. Below are a few photos snapped after the event, including ones of Rep. Jill Schupp, who is working with others on possible statewide smoke-free air legislation.

Pat Lindsey (left) with award presented to Councilwoman Barbara Fraser

Former Ballwin Alderman Charles Gatton, Missouri State Rep. Jill Schupp, and Ballwin Alderwoman Jane Suozzi

State Rep. Jill Schupp - District 82, Creve Coeur (left), and Alderwoman Jane Suozzi, Ballwin