Lake Saint Louis bans indoor smoking
County could follow suit on bars, restaurants
By Joe Scott, St. Louis Suburban Journals
Saturday, March 20, 2010 1:37 PM CDT
Roy Sykes photo – Greg Ory from St. Charles smokes during happy hour at RT Weilers on Main Street in St. Charles. Lake Saint Louis aldermen voted to ban smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. Now, the St. Charles County Council will consider putting a countywide smoking ban on the November ballot.
Lake Saint Louis has become the first St. Charles County municipality to approve a citywide smoking ban in enclosed public areas, including restaurants and bars. Now, the rest of St. Charles County may get a chance to decide on a similar ban.
“Sometimes it’s OK to be first,” said Jim Beattie, an oncologist with Missouri Cancer Care at SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake Saint Louis. Beattie, a Lake Saint Louis resident, spoke before the Board of Aldermen voted Monday to ban smoking in enclosed public places. “Sometimes it’s OK to be brave. Sometimes it’s OK to be the leader and not the follower.”
Aldermen approved the smoking ban with a 4-2 vote. The ban is set to take effect six months after Mayor Mike Potter signs the bill into law. Potter, who opposes the smoking ban, said he plans to sign the bill unless one of the four aldermen supporting the ban changes their minds. It takes four votes to approve an ordinance, the same number it would take to override his veto.
The sponsor of the bill said banning smoking in public places is the right thing for Lake Saint Louis.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Alderman John Pellerito, Ward 3, who sponsored the smoking ban bill. “This is a giant step forward. This shows the rest of the municipalities that communities can come together to do what’s right.”
He said the Lake Saint Louis ban could set the tone for St. Charles County.
St. Charles County Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, D-District 2, said Wednesday she would like to discuss putting a countywide smoking ban on the ballot in November.
She acknowledged time is getting short to get a measure on the ballot and allow time for public debate. The deadline for putting a proposition on the November ballot is Aug. 24. Hibbeler said the council needs to discuss the issue during its April meetings to give time for public input. The action would need a simple majority of four votes to pass. A supermajority – five of seven votes – would be needed to override a veto.
County Council President John White, R-District 7, said he would agree to put discussion of a smoking ban on an upcoming work session agenda. As a self-described reformed smoker, he said he enjoys going into bars and restaurants without smelling cigarette smoke.
“I’m not really in favor of forcing the issue on people,” White said. “It’s a public issue, so the public should decide.”
The St. Louis County smoking ban exempts casinos, smoking lounges at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and bars where food accounts for less than 25 percent of the gross sales.
Hibbeler said she would prefer fewer exemptions to the law because they might invite lawsuits. Opponents say exemptions are unfair to nonexempt businesses.
“That’s the devil in the details,” Hibbeler said. “We don’t want to do anything that hasn’t been done before because we don’t want a situation where it costs the county money to defend it in court.”Before the Lake Saint Louis board’s vote on Monday, Betty Asher, a Lake Saint Louis resident and nonsmoker, said she felt strongly the ban violates business owners’ rights to make decisions affecting their establishments. She noted aldermen had discussed their responsibilities in protecting public health.
“Where do we stop once we dedicate ourselves to deciding what is good or bad for others?” Asher asked. “It is my choice to go or to not go. I choose my right to choose.”
Alderman Harry Slyman, Ward 1, and Charlotte Norton, Ward 2, voted against the ordinance. Norton said a smoking ban should be countywide or statewide so business owners in one area aren’t at a disadvantage.
“This is putting a Band-Aid on a major wound,” Norton said. Smokers simply will drive a couple of miles to neighboring towns without a countywide or statewide ban, she said.
Slyman said he believes business owners should make decisions about their own establishments.
“It’s a freedom of choice issue,” he said.
Beattie said the city already imposes rules on businesses, such as how many trees must be planted in parking areas.
“Then it seems incredulous to say that you shouldn’t make a rule against blowing smoke in your establishment when we know it’s a carcinogenic,” Beattie said.