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

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.”

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

  1. There is no reason in the world to have no-smoking bans in the hospitality sector.
    Owners can post a sign in their door:
    ‘This is a non-smoking venue’
    ‘This is a smoking venue’
    This situation gives the owners and the public choices.
    Isn’t this what America is all about??

    • MoGASP: The reason for requiring smoke-free air in public places and the workplace is universal: to protect public health and welfare in those places. You are advocating for the tobacco industry, which proposed this solution as a way to sidetrack real action years ago.

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