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I was recently made aware of the following two dueling letters which appeared in recent consecutive editions of the weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times.
The first is from Jean Loemker, a Kirkwood resident who was very active in promoting the successful smoke-free air petition initiative, overwhelmingly approved at the polls last November.
The second is a rebuttal from David Kuneman of Rock Hill in St. Louis County, a retired pharmaceutical chemist who, before Bill Hannegan appeared on the scene, was the most vocal opponent of local smoke-free air efforts. He has posted extensively on The Smokers’ Club at http://kuneman.smokersclub.com/. According to his disclosure on that site:
“Dave Kuneman, who smokes, worked for 6 years in the 1980s as a research chemist for Seven-Up and still draws a small pension from that work. At the time of his employment Seven-Up was owned by Philip Morris.” He is described as a “noncompensated director of research of the Smokers’ Club Inc.”
Following these two letters is a response I submitted in support of smoke-free air efforts which as of today had not been accepted for publication.
Just some background on Jean Loemker. She is a health professional who was active in both efforts by Kirkwood residents to enact a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance by ballot initiative. The first was in 2006 when a grass-roots group of local residents formed Citizens for a Smoke Free Kirkwood. After the city council, led by the late mayor, refused to adopt the proposed ordinance language, it went on the November 2006 ballot. It was defeated following a disinformation campaign by the city council which claimed the definition of smoking in the proposed ordinance was so broad it would even prohibit outdoor barbecues on the Fourth of July!
The second petition initiative in 2009, promoted by a new grass-roots group called HEALTHY AIR FOR KIRKWOOD, adopted a simpler definition for smoking and learned from the mistakes of the earlier effort. Again the city council refused to enact it by ordinance so it went to a vote of the people. But this time the result was far different, with it being approved by a whopping 2:1 majority at the polls last November. The ordinance went into effect on January 2, 2010, and garnered publicity from the local news media. [Please see earlier blogs, such as KTVI Fox2 News 1/2/2010: “Kirkwood Smoking Ban Takes Effect Saturday”]
Missouri lawmakers will have a rare opportunity this session to save lives and improve the health of their constituents. They can do this by supporting the proposed changes to the “Clean Indoor Air Act,” otherwise known as HB 1766.
Representatives Walt Bivens (R) and Jill Schupp (D) introduced House Bill 1766 for the first reading in the Missouri Senate on Friday, Jan. 22. HB 1766 has strong bipartisan support with 20 sponsors from rural counties, as well as the Kansas City and the St. Louis metropolitan areas. HB 1766, if adopted by the Missouri legislature, would make Missouri the 42nd state in the nation to adopt a comprehensive smoke-free law, joining 71 percent of the U.S. population that has already adopted smoke-free workplace laws.
The CDC estimates that over 10,600 Missourians die each year from tobacco use and the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. The annual health care cost due to tobacco use in Missouri is a staggering $2,130,000,000. The proposed changes will be effective in protecting all workers and patrons from the health hazards of second-hand smoke.
Please extend a special thanks to our area representatives Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves) and Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) for taking a leadership role in protecting the health and lives of all Missourians.
To read HB 1766 go to: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills101/biltxt/intro/HB1766I.htm.
January 28, 2010
Jean Loemker, in her Jan. 29 letter seems under the impression that 41 states already have comprehensive smoke free laws. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, most recent state smoking bans have exemptions. For example, Pennsylvania and Florida exempt free-standing bars. New Jersey and Pennsylvania exempt some casino space, Oklahoma exempts walled off and separately ventilated restaurant space, many states exempt airport smoking lounges and the list goes on and on.
This is because it’s getting increasingly obvious that smoking bans do harm business, and the more the hospitality venue is associated with customer lingering, the worse the harm. The National Restaurant association found bans hurt table service restaurants, where customers linger for two or three hours, about 20 percent.
Kirkwood’s ban is comprehensive to the Nth degree. Customers are migrating to surrounding jurisdictions, and those jurisdictions will still be able to allow smoking in those establishments where bans hurt business most – even after the county ban kicks in next year.
Ban proponents promise no economic harm, then when a situation like Kirkwood’s develops, they claim surrounding areas must also have bans to “level the playing field.” If bans did not harm business, there would be no need to “level the playing field.” With such light turnout, voters who approved these bans may not be representative of those who spend the most money in the establishments which are most likely to suffer.
Even when a ban is statewide, U.S. Department of Commerce data show that the fraction of total retail sales that are bar and restaurant sales, is 8 percent lower in states with bans. Most restaurants operate on a 5 percent profit margin.
About 20 percent of our voters turned out when the bans were placed on the ballot and about 40 percent of those opposed the bans. This means about 8 percent of our total electorate oppose bans. That matches closely with the 8 percent lower bar and restaurant sales in states with bans.
Our country’s economic success over the last 200 years has been due to our ability to freely operate enterprises to maximize profit. Neither Kirkwood voters nor the state legislature should meddle with that.
David W. Kuneman
February 04, 2010
My response, submitted to the Webster-Kirkwood Times on-line, has not been published at this point but is pasted below:
Missouri House Bill 1766, sponsored by Rep. Walt Bivens (R), is a strong smoke-free air bill with few exemptions, as noted by Jean Loemker, Kirkwood, in her Jan. 28 letter “Lawmakers Take Up State Ban.” If approved, it will replace the 1992 Missouri Clean Indoor Air Act, which has weak provisions [see on-line http://tinyurl.com/ybevhkj%5D but importantly, thanks in part to opposition from Missouri GASP, doesn’t contain a preemption clause sought by the tobacco lobby, thereby permitting stronger local ordinances.
Mr. Kuneman, in his Feb. 4 letter “Smoking Bans Hurts Area Bars, Restaurants,” is wrong in stating that progress on implementing comprehensive smoke-free air protection is stalling because they harm business.
Both more states and more municipalities are adopting such comprehensive laws. Americans for Nonsmokers Rights (ANR) lists 18 such states (plus Puerto Rico), with Wisconsin and Michigan joining them later this year [on-line at http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/WRBLawsMap.pdf].
ANR also lists 375 municipalities with comprehensive smoke-free air ordinances in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. This includes Ballwin, Independence, Kansas City, Kirkwood, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, and North Kansas City.
Kirkwood’s ordinance went into effect Jan. 2, 2010, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Loemker and others in the grass-roots group, HEALTHY AIR FOR KIRKWOOD. In July, Clayton will follow.
The tobacco lobby initially opposed smoke-free air laws by arguing that secondhand smoke wasn’t harmful. When that was soundly debunked by successive U.S. Surgeon General’s Reports, starting in 1986, industry surrogates like Mr. Kuneman started arguing that it was bad for business, especially restaurants and bars.
Mr. Kuneman concludes his letter: “Our country’s economic success over the last 200 years has been due to our ability to freely operate enterprises to maximize profit.”
That ignores the enormous progress that has been made in protecting the health and safety of those working for private employers, thanks to countless health, sanitation, and building regulations, while private business has continued to thrive.
Why should secondhand smoke, a major air pollutant, which requires only “No Smoking” signage and ashtray removal to remedy, be off-limits to regulation?