KC Star 5/6/2010: “Smoking habit ensnares Missouri”

The following recent article from the Kansas City Star has “stolen” my oft-used tag line to describe the state of Missouri – the “Smoke-Me State” – which I’ve used repeatedly over the years in Letters to the Editor. And while the state legislature has failed to act on strengthening the original 1992 Missouri Clean Indoor Air act, we’ve been making really remarkable progress locally, especially during the past few years. Kirkwood went smoke-free the first of this year, and Clayton’s comprehensive ordinance goes into effect in July. St. Louis City and County will follow suit on January 2, 2011.

The Kansas City Star article has already attracted 67 reader comments, including some from the usual SHS hazard deniers like harleyrider1978 (who is no longer welcomed on this blog). He posted a number of contentious comments early on, like one on May 6 at 6:04 am from which this opening paragraph is excerpted:

“I see the smokefree nazis from kansas city are at it again.They are the ones responsible for all the anti-smoking editorials all over missourri as of late,even setting up fake local smokefree coalitions in citys across missouri to try and make missourians think their own locals are for these bans.The local media groups are in bed with this attack on individual and business owners private property rights…….”

Personally, I think it’s unacceptable to allow attacks likening supporters of smoke-free air to “Nazis.”

The article’s emphasis is on the lack of a statewide law but as noted above that shouldn’t blind us to what is happening locally. These strong local ordinances, which once in force should be strengthened further to embrace ALL workers without exception (the city and county ordinances both exempt small bars and casino gaming floors), will eventually provide the groundswell of support for a strong statewide law. We’re just not there yet.

Smoking habit ensnares Missouri
Posted on Thu, May. 06, 2010 12:00 AM

By ALAN BAVLEY
The Kansas City Star

Maybe we should call Missouri the “Smoke Me” state.

Whether it’s at home or at work or at the convenience store checkout counter, Missourians live in a state that is one of the most tobacco-friendly places in the nation. That’s according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ranks states on their tobacco control efforts.

At just 17 cents per pack, Missouri has the second-lowest state tobacco tax, after South Carolina, the CDC statistics show.

Missouri workers are more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke than any workers outside of Nevada. And Missouri families are more likely than others to welcome smoking in their homes — 69.5 percent of households in the state maintain no smoking rules, compared with the national average of 77.6 percent.

This nonchalance doesn’t come without cost. An estimated 307 adults out of every 100,000 in Missouri die each year due to smoking. Only nine states had higher rates.

The CDC’s numbers for Kansas were nothing to be proud of either, but its rates of adult smoking and smoking-related deaths were closer to the national averages than those of Missouri.

So what keeps Missouri smoking?

“There’s a real lack of political will and a lack of investment in tobacco control,” said Douglas Luke, director of Washington University’s Center for Tobacco Policy Research in St. Louis. “The shame is that it costs us both in money and lives.”

Missouri doesn’t have a clean indoor air law, Luke said. That leaves many workers in bars, restaurants and casinos exposed to second-hand smoke.

And Missouri spends just 1.7 percent of the amount the CDC recommends for tobacco prevention programs such as anti-smoking media and education campaigns. Only Mississippi and Tennessee spent less.

“It’s not that we’re trying and failing,” Luke said. “It’s that we’re not even trying.”

Kit Wagar, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, acknowledged that more could be done to discourage smoking. But there have been successes, he said.

“Nobody here is under any illusions that we’ve done enough. This is a huge public health problem,” Wagar said. “We’re working as hard as we can with the resources we have. We think we are making progress.”

Missouri has successful prevention programs in schools, Wagar said.

And when the state teamed up with the Royals and Cardinals last year for anti-smoking public service announcements, calls by smokers to the state’s “quit line” more than doubled.

Luke is heartened by the growing number of localities in Missouri, such as Kansas City, Kirksville and Columbia, that have enacted indoor smoking bans.

“I have a lot of hope things will continue to improve and there will be discussion of doing something statewide,” Luke said. “Do we want to be known as one of the most unhealthy places in the country?”

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send e-mail to abavley@kcstar.com.

4 responses to “KC Star 5/6/2010: “Smoking habit ensnares Missouri”

  1. Horacio Prada

    I’m dismayed by the huge quantities of cigarette butts that litter the sidewalks and curb sides all over the city of St Louis. There is an awful lot of smoking going on. St Louis is a veritable smoker’s heaven. I wish that I could move to Calabasas California, the only city in the US where smoking in apartment units is forbidden. Anybody want to help me move there ?

  2. I am grateful to our ever watchful bulldog, Martin Pion, who continually advocates for smoke-free venues in Missouri. His persistence has improved health for many of us. I kid him about his unending devotion to the cause, but I am thankful we have him in our community.

  3. This is in regards to the smoking laws.
    We as smokers no the concencience of smoking(duh). However the people that are so freaked out about smoking in public are ignorent to othe hazzerd. For example over eating, Dietabets, heart dicesise. You people need to find something else to do than, rag on smokers.
    Get a life, do you not realize something else is going to kill you before enhauling cigarette smoke. Give me a break!!!

    • “Doubt is our weapon” is a mantra of the tobacco industry and that is the thrust of your message, plus trying to redirect the issue, an old trick of the tobacco industry and its supporters. The evidence is conclusive on the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. “Get a life!” you write. That’s rich, coming from a nicotine addict.

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