P-D 3/15/2010: “Lake Saint Louis could vote tonight on smoking ban”

Lake St. Louis is giving serious consideration to a smoke-free air ordinance but the usual opposition and hollow arguments against are again being voiced.

Bill Hannegan was first to post a comment on the Post-Dispatch on-line following the story at 10:31 pm last night, arguing it would result in loss of business and quoting examples from Kirkwood which cannot be independently verified.

In the following story, Lake St. Louis Mayor Mike Potter, who opposes the proposal, being quoted as saying:

“I’m against it because of a business owner’s right to run his business.”

Then you have a nonsmoker being quoted as saying “There’s too much damn government already,” and officials should concentrate on the economy.

It’s not clear what the city council can do about the economy but it can certainly do something about improving public health and welfare, one of its key duties. And if Mayor Potter really believes this infringes on business owner’s rights he should work to repeal all the other city ordinances already in effect which do just that. And why stop at business owners?

Here are ordinances I found without much searching in the existing city code that the city should repeal to be consistent:

It is necessary to regulate litter in order to protect the public safety and health and to preserve the aesthetics and general welfare interests of City residents.

It’s OK to be concerned about public health and safety when it comes to litter but not when it comes to secondhand smoke exposure, which has been determined to cause lung cancer in exposed healthy nonsmokers?

Makes it unlawful to refuse to sell or rent to a person with a disability.

But the mayor believes it’s OK to discriminate against an asthmatic person who is highly smoke sensitive when it comes to allowing smoking in a business open to the public.

There’s also the following entire section defining nuisances that could be abolished at the same time on the grounds that “there’s too much damn government and the city should be concentrating on the economy.”

A. Every act or thing done, made, permitted, allowed or continued on any property, public or private, by any person, his/her agent or servant to the damage or injury of the inhabitants of this City shall be deemed a nuisance, unless otherwise provided for by ordinance.

Below is the article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Lake Saint Louis could vote tonight on smoking ban
By Mark Schlinkmann

ST. CHARLES COUNTY — Four months after St. Louis County voters passed a smoking ban for most public places, Lake Saint Louis could become the first city in St. Charles County to go smoke-free.

And a call for a countywide ban appears to be gaining momentum.

Lake Saint Louis aldermen may vote tonight on prohibiting lighting up in restaurants, bars and other enclosed areas.

Ever since the board began discussing the bill in November, the sponsor, Alderman John Pellerito, has said a majority seemed favorable to passage. But he says now that the outcome is in doubt because of another alderman’s alternative plan to put the issue before voters.

“I voted to say yes, we should talk about it,” Pellerito said of a nonbinding referendum. But, he added, “What I want is the bill to be passed. The bill is about the health and welfare of this community.”

Opponents, including Mayor Mike Potter, echo a key argument made over the years in other parts of the metro area: Smoking bans infringe on the independence of business owners.

“I’m against it because of a business owner’s right to run his business,” Potter said. Once a business decides whether to allow smoking, he said, customers can then decide whether to patronize the business.

Pellerito and Potter agree that, practically speaking, the primary effect of the ban in the city of about 14,000 would be on only a handful of bars and restaurants that now allow smoking. That’s because various other establishments in the city already are smoke-free, as are many other buildings covered by the proposal.

Among the opponents is John Bagwell, owner of The Pub, near Interstate 70 and Lake Saint Louis Boulevard.

“Ninety percent of our patrons smoke,” he said. “It’s going to hurt us.” He expects some customers to patronize bars in nearby O’Fallon, which allows smoking.

Don Baker, owner of Donatelli’s Bistro on Highway N, said it would be fairer to impose rules statewide. “My second choice would be countywide,” he said.

Discussion of a countywide approach to the issue is expected to begin soon by the St. Charles County Council.

Council Chairman John White, R-St. Charles County, says he tentatively plans to schedule a meeting April 12 to talk about the idea of putting a countywide smoking ban before voters for the November election.

That proposal is being pushed by Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, D-O’Fallon, with support from a regional anti-smoking coalition.

Coalition official Pat Lindsey said the group hopes to persuade some municipal boards to adopt resolutions of support for a countywide vote. St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano says he plans to ask his city’s Board of Aldermen to do that.

Lindsey and other coalition members are to meet today with County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who has been noncommittal on the issue. White also is undecided on Hibbeler’s proposal and wants to hear what municipal leaders in the county think.

Hibbeler says at least two ideas could come up at the April council meeting: asking voters to approve a ban on smoking in public places countywide — with some exemptions — or scheduling a nonbinding advisory referendum.

She said the council also will have to discuss whether to follow St. Louis County’s lead and exempt bars that do not sell much food — something she’s not sure about now. She said it could be difficult to verify claims about food sales.

She added, though, that it’s likely that any county plan would exempt the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles for political reasons: to ward off a possible ad campaign by the casino firm against a smoking ban.

Ameristar has said it opposes any smoking ban, partly because its competitor across the river in Maryland Heights — Harrah’s — will be exempt from the St. Louis County ban that takes effect next January.

“I think the people of St. Charles County need the opportunity to make their own informed decision on the facts rather than being bombarded with … advertising on the issue,” Hibbeler said.

Hibbeler said most council members prefer to delay a decision until after the Missouri Legislature’s session ends in mid-May to see whether a statewide smoking ban proposal is passed.

The Lake Saint Louis proposal would take effect six months after aldermanic approval. Unlike the St. Louis County ban, it would contain no exemptions for any bars.

Customers of two Lake Saint Louis restaurants along I-70 where smoking is permitted in separate sections had mixed opinions on the issue when interviewed during the lunch hour Friday.

At El Maguey, Jeanne Schmitz, 49, a nurse who works with cancer patients, was firmly in favor of the ban. She worries about secondhand smoke.

“Smoking causes lung disease and lung cancer,” said Schmitz, a nonsmoker who lives in St. Charles County.

In another part of the restaurant, Tom Johnson, 53, a nonsmoker from St. Charles, said he was opposed.

“There’s too much damn government already,” he said, adding that officials should concentrate on improving the economy.

A few doors away outside a Denny’s, Mike Millfelt, 75, a nonsmoker who lives in Lake Saint Louis, was critical of the proposed ban. “Why completely keep out the people who smoke?” he asked.

Also there was Bryan Thrower, 45, a Warrenton resident who’s trying to stop smoking.

“If it wasn’t in the public area, it would be easier for everybody to quit,” he said.

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