Lake Saint Louis Ald. John Pellerito spearheaded adoption of the first comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance in St. Charles County after decades of resistance on March 15th this year. Now St. Charles County is discussing county-wide action. That follows unprecedented progress on this issue last year in St. Louis County and City.
The same tired arguments against taking action to protect the health and welfare of the public and private employees are being repeated. But the winds of change are definitely blowing at the local level, even if they haven’t reached the state legislature yet. Here’s the latest report from St. Charles County where Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler is leading this progressive effort.
St. Charles County discusses smoking ban
BY MARK SCHLINKMANN
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
ST. CHARLES COUNTY — A month after Lake Saint Louis passed St. Charles County’s first comprehensive indoor smoking prohibition, the County Council on Monday night began discussing putting a ban before voters countywide.
Council Chairman John White, R-St. Charles County, said he prefers waiting until the municipal election next April to allow for more time to study the issue. In any event, public hearings are likely before the council acts.
Many of the arguments pro and con that have come up before other local governments were aired once again Monday, either by council members or others.
Supporters such as Stacy Reliford, an official with the American Cancer Society, said smoke-free laws have become the norm, not the exception, across the nation.
“Every major medical and health organization has said second-hand smoke is harmful,” Reliford said.
Opponents like Carol Gold, owner of the South 94 Bistro in St. Peters, said a ban would hurt businesses such as hers, result in lower sales tax revenue for the county and be unfair to smokers.
“Where are their choices — to the curb, the parking lot, their home?” she asked.
Hibbeler has said the council needs to decide whether to follow St. Louis County’s lead and include an exemption for bars that don’t sell much food. She believes it may be difficult to verify claims about food sales.
The Lake Saint Louis measure, which goes into effect Oct. 1, has no food-related exemptions.
Hibbeler and some other supporters have proposed a vote in November so a St. Charles County ban could take effect as soon as January — when prohibitions in St. Louis County and St. Louis are already set to become law.
Councilman Terry Hollander, R-St. Charles, cautioned that such a tight time frame could give St. Charles County officials too little time to prepare for enforcement. Reliford said St. Louis County, where voters approved a ban last November, has yet to firm up its enforcement plans.
Two council members declared their opposition to Hibbeler’s proposal Monday — Paul Wynn, R-O’Fallon, and Joe Brazil, R-Defiance, who wasn’t present but had a statement read on his behalf.
Wynn said a ban would take away business owners’ freedom to choose whether to allow smoking.
“If you don’t want to go to a restaurant, don’t go,” Wynn said. “If you don’t want to work there, don’t work there. It’s America.”
Hibbeler said “a business owner’s freedom crosses the line when it infringes on those people work there” and on customers.
Bill Hannegan, whose Keep St. Louis Free group has opposed smoking bans across the area, warned that his organization plans a court challenge to St. Louis’ exemption of casinos from its ban.
Hibbeler has suggested exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles from the St. Charles County measure because of concern that Ameristar would finance an opposition campaign.
Kirkwood and Ballwin are now the only cities in St. Louis County with comprehensive bans; Clayton will join them in July.
Illinois has a statewide ban.
Statewide proposals pending in the Missouri Legislature are considered unlikely to pass before this year’s session ends next month.