Monthly Archives: December 2010

2010/12/15 Beacon: “County Council approves smoking-ban change sought by Harrah’s”

The following article by former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Jo Mannies, is actually more informative than the previous post by current Post-Dispatch reporter, Phil Sutin. So even though it covers much the same ground, it’s being posted as well.

County Council approves smoking-ban change sought by Harrah’s
By Jo Mannies, Beacon Political Reporter
Posted 11:44 pm, Tue., 12.14.10

By a narrow 4-3 vote, the St. Louis County Council gave first-round approval Tuesday night to a change in the countywide smoking ban set to go into effect Jan. 1.

The change allows Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights to offer smoking for patrons in its VooDoo Lounge. Supporters say the aim is to correct an oversight in the original ban approved by voters in November 2009. Opponents say the change waters down the ban, and defies voters.

The opposition was led by Council President Barbara Fraser, D-University City, who angrily declared, “By creating another exemption for casinos, this bill goes in the wrong direction for the health of county residents.”

The provision’s sponsor, Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland, said the issue was simply that the smoking ban allows businesses who receive county liquor licenses to seek exceptions to the ban under certain circumstances, but the ban makes no provisions for bars in casinos, which get their licenses from the state Gaming Comission. Burkett viewed the matter as a simple oversight being corrected.

But critics said that casinos already have special status in the ban, since it specifically allows smoking on the casino floors.

Fraser was joined by both GOP members of the council — Colleen Wasinger of Town and Country and Greg Quinn of Ballwin — who said they didn’t want to vote counter to the public’s wishes. All three cited the fact that almost two-thirds of county voters had backed Prop N.

Burkett was joined by the board’s other three Democrats.

Charles Gatton, who had headed the chief pro-Prop N group, County Citizens for Cleaner Air, said afterwards he was concerned that the Harrah’s exception would set a precedent and weaken the county’s overall restrictions in public smoking. He said several area communities already have stricter anti-smoking laws than the county.

Gatton said he planned to ask St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley to veto the Harrah’s exception. Dooley said he will review the matter after the measure is finally passed, but Burkett indicated she expected him to sign the change.

Because of procedural requirements, the final vote cannot be taken until Jan. 4. That happens to be after Fraser, who did not seek-relection, will leave the board.

2010/12/15 P-D: “St. Louis County Council tentatively agrees to exempt two casino lounges from smoking ban”

A short piece appears on page 5 of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch by reporter Phil Sutin about the efforts of Harrah’s Casino to extend its present gaming floor smoking exemption in the law going into effect January 2, 2011, to a couple of its bars.

Harrah’s is like the 800 pound gorilla, throwing its weight about and getting whatever it wants from St. Louis County Council.

Their behavior is reminiscent of Big Tobacco’s: actual or perceived profits first over both its customers, and worse, its employees.

Those working in the gaming industry are now among the most exposed when it comes to secondhand smoke. Instead of considering how to extend protections for those employees, the council is moving to relax them further.

Bill sponsor Councilwoman Kathleen Burkett is quoted as saying she opposes the smoking ban because it has exemptions, and then proceeds to add another exemption!

Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin

St. Louis County Council tentatively agrees to exempt two casino lounges from smoking ban

By PHIL SUTIN • psutin@post-dispatch.com > 314-863-2812 | (8) Comments | Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 12:00 am

CLAYTON • The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday tentatively agreed to give two lounges in Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights an exemption from the county’s smoking ban that takes effect Jan. 2.
Harrah’s serves only drinks in its VooDoo Lounge and a piano bar. They would qualify for an exemption, but the Missouri Gaming Commission, not the county, licenses alcohol sales in the casino. The ban currently says only bars licensed by the county can get an exemption. The bill adds bars licensed by the Gaming Commission to the section of the ban that lists those that qualify for exemptions.

The vote on the bill was 4-3. A final vote will be held at a later date. Council members Hazel Erby, D-University City; Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland; Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, and Steve Stenger, D-south St. Louis County, favored it. Council Chairwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, and council members Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, and Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, opposed it.

Burkett, who sponsored the bill at Harrah’s request, called it a minor change. She said she opposes the smoking ban because it has exemptions.

Fraser, the sponsor of the smoking ban, said the casino should have understood that the ban would only allow smoking on the casino floor, not the lounges. Burkett’s bill, she said, is “a step in the wrong direction.”

2010/12/12 P-D: “Smoking ban puts some bars on edge”

The following St. Louis Post-Dispatch story attracted lots of on-line comments from readers, quite a few being of the usual irrational or ill-informed variety.

For example, suggesting that because a business is privately-owned it should be immune from such government health regulation is illogical.

Another oft-repeated theme: If cigarettes are a legal product you should be allowed to light up anywhere. Pencils are legal products but you can’t stick them in someone else’s eye.

Smoking ban puts some bars on edge
Discussion

By MARGARET GILLERMAN > mgillerman@post-dispatch.com 314-725-6758 and PHIL SUTIN > psutin@post-dispatch.com 314-863-2812 | 89 Comments | Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:05 am

December 6, 2010— Surrounded by the empty tables during lunch hour, owner David Field and Debi Sloan eat hamburgers at GB Field Old Timer’s Saloon in Breckenridge Hills. Field recently stopped serving full meals and now only serves burgers and fries so he’ll be able to allow smoking in his establishment after the January 2 smoking ban comes into effect. Field said he made the change because 90% of his customers are smokers, though the change has had a huge impact on customers. “Before we always had people. Now its nearly empty,” he said. Emily Rasinski erasinski@post-dispatch.com

Related Stories

St. Louis County, St. Louis smoking bans have some variations
Airport, and region, going smoke-free at last
Surgeon general: 1 cigarette is 1 too many

Related Links

SMOKING BANS

Among the hundreds of bars and restaurants in St. Louis and St. Louis County getting ready for the new smoking bans Jan. 2, the GB Field Old Timers Saloon may be fighting the hardest to get an exemption.

This neighborhood bar and restaurant has pretty much deleted the “restaurant” part of its description.

David Field, the owner, has closed most kitchen operations, reluctantly fired two cooks and two waitresses and reduced the menu to burgers and fries — all to get an exemption from the county ban.

In both the city and county, establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue. While many of the 976 bars and restaurants in the county are already smoke-free or welcome the ban, Old Timers, at 9212 St. Charles Rock Road, is going a different route.

“We had to make a decision — we’ll either smoke or sell food,” manager Debi Sloan said. “We used to open at 6 a.m., had a full-service menu, and two or three daily specials.”

Her boss, Field, determined that the bar made more money than the restaurant, and on Nov. 29 closed the restaurant side — except for burgers and fries.

That followed the county’s rejection of his application for an exemption. He will be reapplying soon.

One afternoon last week, Old Timers had a good crowd, drinking and smoking. Some regulars said they missed the home-style meals once served there, but most said they would keep coming back.

Bob Swaim, 53, a smoker from neighboring Woodson Terrace, dislikes the change.

“I’m bummed,” he said. “I’d come in for two eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast. I didn’t eat anyplace else.”
He’s now eating a bowl of cold cereal at home.

Jane Northington, a nonsmoker from Bridgeton, used to come in for the daily special and says she’ll miss the ham and beans, cornbread, fried potatoes and raw onion. Now she has the burger and fries.

“I think people have a right to smoke like people have a right to drink,” she said.

Sloan said the changes should be a financial wash for the establishment, with the drop in revenue being matched by a drop in costs.
But she said it hurt to see her friends lose jobs.

65 PERCENT BACKING

The county ban was passed by 65 percent of the voters in November 2009. The city Board of Aldermen had already approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage.

The county ban affects both municipalities and unincorporated areas. Kirkwood, Ballwin and Clayton already have bans, and Brentwood and Creve Coeur enacted them this year. The Brentwood and Creve Coeur bans do not allow exemptions for bars that serve little food. The Brentwood ban takes effect Jan. 1, and the Creve Coeur ban the next day.

In the county, the Revenue Department processes requests for exemptions. As of Friday, the department had granted 42 exemptions and denied three; two are pending.

The names of those getting exemptions, most of them in South County, are on the Revenue Department’s website at bit.ly/ggp3wh.

Eugene Leung, director of revenue, noted that his licensing section had only three people and must largely rely on forms filled out by applicants. The staff, however, does check to see if information on the form is consistent with other business data the revenue office has, he said.

Bars that obtain exemptions must post a ‘smoking allowed” sign near their entrance.

The county health department will enforce the ordinance, said Joyce Theard, the department’s environmental administrator.

The department has 21 environmental inspectors — who mainly conduct restaurant inspections — to respond to complaints, she said. They and some other health department employees will soon receive training about the smoking ban, Theard said.

CITY ENFORCEMENT

Pamela Rice Walker, acting health director for the city, said she expected that about 100 establishments in the city might qualify for exemptions.

So far, none of the city’s 765 bars and restaurants licensed to serve liquor has applied for an exemption.

If any want an exemption, inspectors will visit the bar with a tape measure to make sure it meets the requirements.

Those with exemptions will have to post signs at the entrances and over the bar area in large black type: “WARNING: SMOKING ALLOWED HERE.”

The city hopes to detect violators at the same time the staff makes routine fire, building and health inspections.
The city has 16 inspectors altogether available for inspections.
City police will become involved only if a bar owner or manager calls police because of a customer who refuses to stop smoking or to leave. Walker said the health department would send out a letter soon, perhaps Monday, clarifying who may be exempted.
An unhappy recipient will be Joe Finn, co-owner of Pat’s Bar and Grill (formerly McDermott’s) in Dogtown. He sells a lot of food and has few options.

He’s quick to express his opposition to the city ordinance.
“I’ve done a good job collecting taxes for them, and their reward to us is to single us out and destroy our business,” Finn said.

“If I lose my smokers, it kills me, and if I lose my family business, it kills me.”

He also objects to the city’s prohibiting people younger than 21 from entering drinking establishments that hold exemptions.
If he were able to get an exemption, he said, “I’d be breaking the law if I let my children come in.

“The do-gooders of the world are going to bring our whole civilization to a crashing halt.”

Finn fears he will lose many customers to small bars with exemptions. But the playing field will level out on Jan. 1, 2016, when all bars and restaurants in St. Louis will lose their exemptions and go smoke-free.

Clayton restaurateur Frank Schmitz is looking forward to that level playing field in the county.

He led the fight against Clayton’s smoking ban, which went into effect in July.

He said bar sales at his Barcelona Tapas Restaurant fell 10 percent in the third quarter.

“I’ve lost a considerable amount of cash,” Schmitz said.

He added: “Right from the beginning, we felt it should have been implemented at the same time everywhere. There’s no choice now. People will go where they want to go again rather than going where they can smoke.”

2010/12/10 P-D Editorial: “Airport, and region, going smoke-free at last”

Ald. Lyda Krewson

The following editorial seems to credit Mayor Francis Slay for this groundbreaking smoke-free air legislation, but really Ald. Lyda Krewson deserves as much, or more of the accolades as sponsor of the bill in the first place, and shepherding it through the City of St. Louis’s tortuous legislative process in 2009, when at times it seemed doomed.

Getting Lambert airport to go smoke-free has been Missouri GASP’s longest-running campaign.

In 1996, for example, Missouri GASP volunteers, dressed in clean room “Smoke-Buster” white coveralls, collected petition signatures at Lambert on several occasions in support of a smoke-free airport and submitted them to St. Louis City Hall. Francis Slay, who was then President of the Board of Aldermen, responded in a July 15, 1996, letter:

“Dear Mr. Pion,

I received the petitions that you delivered to the Board of Aldermen on Friday July, 12, 1996. Thank you for bringing them to me. As a member of the Airport Commission, I will see that the Commission receives the petitions at our next meeting. As you indicated in the enclosed material, the Airport administration is considering actions that will hopefully address some of your organization’s concerns to make the Airport more accommodating to users who suffer discomfort from the current designated “Smoking Area” locations at the Airport.

I realize that these actions may not be as far reaching as your organization would like, but I would hope that any action to assist those who suffer from this problem would be something that would be considered an improvement.”

This reply was received following an announcement that the airport was planning to install smoking rooms over Missouri GASP’s objections, instead of going totally smoke-free. It was also after we had filed an ADA discrimination complaint with the federal Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights on behalf of two smoke-sensitive individuals, and met with then Airport Director, Leonard Griggs Jr. in December, 1994. At that meeting he had told me that the airport was thinking of either going smoke-free, which he said was his preference, or installing smoking rooms. Eventually, over our strenuous objections and warning on technical grounds that they wouldn’t work, the airport installed the smoking rooms in early 1996 at a reported cost of nearly half a million dollars.

After the smoking rooms were installed Missouri GASP conducted a nicotine monitor test near one of them with the help of a TWA gate agent, and had the test independently repeated several years later. Both tests showed that the Lambert airport smoking room was ineffective at containing secondhand smoke. The results were subsequently published in a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Tobacco Control, titled “Airport smoking rooms don’t work.”

Despite repeated attempts over the years to meet with Francis Slay to discuss smoking in Lambert airport, both when he was President of the Board of Aldermen and later when he was elected Mayor, Missouri GASP was repeatedly rebuffed. Such behavior by an elected official is hard to understand or forgive.

Charles Gatton, County Citizens for Cleaner Air

By the way, we shouldn’t forget the critical work of other area legislators in making this happen, starting with the first comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance in the metro area, enacted in the City of Ballwin, effective in 2006, thanks to the bill’s sponsor, Ald. Charles “Charley” Gatton.

That laid the groundwork for a similar bill introduced by the Mayor of Clayton, Linda Goldstein, in 2009 which went into effect in July of that year.

Mayor Linda Goldstein

A critical restriction added to Ald. Lyda Krewson’s St. Louis City ordinance was that it would only go into effect if and when the County enacted a similar ordinance.

Barbara Fraser (D)<BR>St. Louis County Councillor

Councilwoman Barbara Fraser introduced a similar bill in the county which was approved but the county council added a rider punting it to voters as Proposition N. It was finally only decided after Prop N was approved by a resounding majority in the November elections of 2009. Charley Gatton took a leading role in the effort to approve Prop N, being co-chair of the County Citizens for Cleaner Air committee, together with former Ballwin Alderman, Jane Suozzi.

Airport, and region, going smoke-free at last

By The Editorial Board | Comments | Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 9:00 pm

This photo by Laurie Skrivan originally accompanied a May 16, 2003, Post-Dispatch story by reporter Doug Moore titled: Lambert is removed from smoking ban. Alderman (Bosley Sr) changes his bill after viewing video on filtering system

In a single stroke this week, Mayor Francis Slay undid the work of generations of tobacco industry lobbyists and executives. He announced that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will go smoke-free.

Beginning on Jan. 2, five glass-enclosed smoking lounges at the airport, built in response to behind-the-scenes pressure from the tobacco industry, will be closed.

That same day, smoking no longer will be allowed in most public places in St. Louis and St. Louis County. The vast majority of citizens who do not smoke finally will gain the right to breathe clean indoor air.

Just by coincidence, Mr. Slay’s announcement came the same day U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin released a new tobacco report, the 30th such surgeon general’s report since 1964.

“There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” it reads in part. “Any exposure to tobacco smoke — even an occasional cigarette or exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke — is harmful.”

The report details the pathology of tobacco-related disease, noting that chemicals in tobacco smoke damage DNA and cause nearly one-third of all cancer deaths in this country.
It quotes from the abundant scientific literature on how even low-level exposure causes “a rapid and sharp increase” in inflammation of the lining of blood vessels, which is linked to heart attack and stroke.

“Cigarettes were designed for addiction,” the report says. No change in their design over the past 50 years — not filters, “low-tar” formulations or the marketing of so-called light cigarettes — has reduced the damage they do.

Expect to hear howls of protest about the new clean indoor air rules from smokers and tobacco industry apologists.
They’re operating from a playbook first crafted decades ago.
As far back as the early 1950s, the industry developed a public relations strategy to cast doubt on scientific research by creating “uncertainty” about the findings.

After state governments successfully sued big tobacco companies in 1998, thousands of industry documents subpoenaed as part of the suit were publicly released.

Among them is a 1992 memo entitled “Airport Strategy Plan” that spells out a national campaign to “encourage the accommodation of smokers.” Among the targets: Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, then a national hub for TWA.

The records show tobacco industry groups sent lobbyists to the St. Louis County Council in 1993 to weaken proposals that would have banned smoking in the airport. Lobbyists even “prepared some language” for a compromise measure, according to one memo.

Tobacco industry groups also unleashed supposedly independent “scientific experts” who extolled the virtues of ventilation systems to purge tobacco smoke from terminal lounges. That system eventually was adopted at the airport.
Next month, it finally will be dismantled. The region’s smoke-free air laws are a long-overdue acknowledgement of the dangers of tobacco.

Exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths among nonsmokers in this country every year.

But Mr. Slay also told David Hunn of the Post-Dispatch that he’s concerned about the city’s reputation. “The image we want to project is a city that is progressive and health conscious,” he said.

More than three-quarters of the nation’s large hub airports no longer permit smoking inside terminal buildings. Early next month, Lambert-St. Louis will join them.

The vast majority of airline travelers who are nonsmokers will breathe easier because of it.

2010/12/06 P-D: “Smoking on way out at Lambert”

I call it a Death Box …. It looks like a sort of Living Coffin.

Colin Nichols, Lambert airport passenger, July 1998

That’s how British passenger, Colin Nichols, graphically described one of the smoking rooms in Lambert Airport when interviewed by KSDK News Channel 5 TV reporter, Linton Johnson, in July 1998, while awaiting his flight.

(Please click here for the 3:47 minute TV video report, which includes the results of a nicotine monitor test of a Lambert airport smoking room, interviews with smoke-sensitive airline passengers attesting to the inadequacy of the smoking rooms, plus an airport official’s on-camera rebuttal.)

Today’s story is the climax of roughly 20 years of efforts by Missouri GASP to make Lambert Airport smoke-free against significant opposition from the tobacco industry and its surrogates, plus the occasional corrupt politician. There are plenty of individuals who have helped us along the way, some unfortunately no longer alive.

While smoking may not be allowed inside the airport, if it is allowed to continue near entrances then significant amounts of secondhand smoke will still migrate inside the building. This will also need the airport’s careful attention but based on our past experience with the airport authorities, may well not happen.

Ald. Lyda Krewson

As it has done on a number of previous occasions, Lambert successfully lobbied to have the airport exempted from the smoke-free air ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Barbara Fraser and passed by St. Louis County in 2009. However, it failed to get the same exemption in St. Louis City’s ordinance, sponsored by Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, also enacted in 2009 following the success of Prop N.

Smoking on way out at Lambert

Discussion

BY DAVID HUNN | dhunn@post-dispatch.com > 314-436-2239 AND KEN LEISER | kleiser@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8215 | (34) Comments | Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010 7:45 am

The last wisp of smoking inside Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is about to disappear.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is expected to announce today that the city will close — and eventually tear down — the five airport smoking lounges on Jan. 2, the day most public places in the city must go smoke-free.

Slay had said last year he would do as much. Then, late last week, he said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch that the city had worked out conflicts with the county smoking ban, which exempts the lounges.

He said his first priority is the health of travelers and airport workers, but the move is also about the city’s reputation.

“The image we want to project is a city that is progressive and health conscious,” Slay said.

Besides, the mayor said, he never really liked the sight of people crowded into the smoke-filled lounges.

The fine for getting a smoking-indoors citation will be $50 per occurrence, officials said. Airport workers will soon begin posting signs to let the flying public know.

Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea said the airport is still deciding what will fill the space the lounges now occupy.

“It is clear the trend is that airports are going smoke-free,” Lea said.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report contrasting smoking policies at 29 of the largest U.S. airports. It found that 22 were smoke-free this year, compared with 13 of 31 in 2002.

Smoking is still permitted inside three of the five busiest U.S. airports — Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Denver International Airport.

Lambert’s smoking policies were not reviewed. But the report’s conclusions generally supported Slay’s decision, calling for more smoke-free airports.

“Every year, millions of people who travel through and work at these airports are unnecessarily exposed to secondhand smoke,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement. “Even ventilated smoking rooms do not eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. Eliminating smoking at airports is the only way to fully eliminate exposure for people who pass into and through airports.”

Lambert opened the specially ventilated smoking lounges in 1997 at a cost of $450,000. Smoking is off-limits inside bars, restaurants and other public areas.

There were seven smoking lounges initially, but only five are accessible now since Lambert closed numerous unused gates in the B and D concourses.

Smokers are able to sit down or stand inside the lounges, which do not have doors.

Slay said that the airport is working on designating outdoor sites for smokers, once the lounges are gone. They will, however, likely be outside the airport security gates, requiring smokers to leave and re-enter through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Those smoking indoors will be warned at first, Slay said, and then, eventually, ticketed.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a shock,” he said of the change.
‘An inconvenience’

Still, late last week, travelers and airport workers who stopped to smoke inside one of the Terminal 1 smoking lounges said they were sorry to see them go.

“I guess for nonsmokers it’s a good thing,” said Amy York of south St. Louis County, who uses the indoor smoking lounges at Lambert every time she’s there. “But for those of us who smoke, of course, it’s going to be an inconvenience.”

York was seeing off her boyfriend, Elliot Hoyle of Preston, England, who was about to catch flights to Charlotte, N.C., then to Philadelphia and on to Manchester, England. They took turns smoking inside the lounge on the baggage-claim level while the other was outside watching York’s 3-year-old daughter, Lilly.

“I think it’s bizarre you can smoke inside,” Hoyle said between drags. “You can’t in the U.K.”

Business traveler Brian Schroetter of Hazlet, N.J., said, “everybody smokes outside anyway” at U.S. airports, so another smoke-free airport shouldn’t be a big jolt to travelers.

He was familiar with Lambert’s smoking lounges but didn’t use them Friday.

Instead, he walked outside the ticketing level of Terminal 1 to smoke a cigarette.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “I’m a smoker. I would never go in there. You just walk out, you reek of cigarettes.”

2010/12/04 P-D: “Councilwoman seeks smoking ban exemption for Harrah’s lounges”

It’s disappointing to see efforts being made to roll back planned protections from secondhand smoke for employees and patrons by a St. Louis County casino, especially given that they are already among the most smoke-polluted venues. However, it’s not the first time Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights has used its financial clout and influence to prevent employees from working in a healthier workplace on economic grounds.

Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by reporter, Phil Sutin, has already garnered 20 comments, liberally sprinkled with the usual arguments from Bill Hannegan, who was quoted in the article. Here are some comments from readers in favor of smoke-free air or observing how Big Business distorts good public policy:

bassmaster said on: December 4, 2010, 9:11 am
Not a problem for me. I quit going to Mo. casinos when Illinois casinos went smoke free. It’s a much better experience when you come out not smelling like an ash tray. So Mo. do whatever you want.

Bill Hanks said on: December 4, 2010, 12:44 pm
So if bars and restaurants had the dough Harrah’s does, then that means there wouldn’t be any smoking ban, right? Just more evidence of corporations running this country.

towerman10 said on: December 4, 2010, 8:16 am
I’m usually not a complainer about smokers even though I do not smoke, I hate seeing anyones rights get taken away from them, but it is so smokey in Harrah’s, my wife and I quite going there. Their machines are too tight anyways.

Below is the article from the Post-Dispatch web site. Reporter Phil Sutin describes me in it as “a longtime anti-smoking advocate.” A more accurate description is “a longtime smoke-free air advocate.” MoGASP’s clearly stated aims do not include the elimination of smoking.

Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin

Councilwoman seeks smoking ban exemption for Harrah’s lounges

Discussion
By Phil Sutin • psutin@post-dispatch.com > 314-863-2812 | Loading… | Posted: Saturday, December 4, 2010 12:25 am

CLAYTON • The St. Louis County Council will consider whether to exempt two lounges at Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights from a county smoking ban that will take effect Jan. 2.

County Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett

County Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland, said she will introduce a bill Tuesday that would amend the smoking ban to exclude the lounges.

The ban already exempts the casino floor. It also excludes bars in the county where no more than 25 percent of total sales for food and drink come from food.
Harrah’s serves only drinks in the Voo Doo Lounge and a piano bar that otherwise would qualify for an exemption, Burkett said Friday.

But the Gaming Commission, not the county, licenses alcohol sales in the casino, she said. The ban says only bars licensed by the county can get an exemption, she said. Her bill would add bars licensed by the Gaming Commission to the section of the ban that lists those that qualify for exemptions, she said.

The casino is in Burkett’s district. An attorney for Harrah’s about a week ago asked her to seek the change.

The lounges would be the only places her change would affect, Burkett said. The River City Casino in Lemay has two areas on the casino floor, Globar and Aqua, that serve only liquor. They already are exempt because they are on the casino floor, said Mack Bradley, a spokesman for Pinnacle Entertainment, owner of River City. Food and drinks are served together in other areas of the casino.

Pinnacle Entertainment’s Lumière casino in downtown St. Louis has two lounges that serve alcohol, but no food. The city uses the size of a bar to determine whether they are exempt from a smoking ban that also takes effect Jan. 2. Illinois bans smoking in public places, but legislators are considering exempting casinos.

County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser

County Council Chairwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, the sponsor of the smoking ban that county voters approved in November 2009, opposes Burkett’s proposal.

“It was my impression that the casino was concerned about keeping smoking on the casino floor, not in any eating or drinking establishment,” she said.

Martin Pion, a longtime anti-smoking advocate, said, “We want to get smoking out of casinos, not extend it.” Employees should not have to face secondhand smoke, he said. Burkett’s proposal “is going in the wrong direction.”

Bill Hannegan, a critic of smoking bans, said Burkett’s proposal would have little impact. People go to Harrah’s for its casino, he said.

“People already can smoke on the casino floor,” he said.

2010/11/29 P-D: “Illinois casino smoking: Compromise bill would allow separate rooms”

Another attempt by a well-intentioned but misguided legislator, state Rep. André M. Thapedi, D-Chicago, to put smoking back into Illinois casinos, using the economic argument for doing so. One of the comments posted on-line following the article hit the nail on the head though:

Tonymustgo said on: November 30, 2010, 1:55 pm

Of course revenue is down. We have 10 percent unemployment and nearly everyone feels the pinch on discretionary spending. Unless you’re a gambling addict, spending at casinos comes from your discretionary funds. ……

As she has done consistently in the past, Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association argued against the proposal on health grounds. That was the foremost reason for the Illinois Smoke Free Air Law in the first place.

Illinois casino smoking: Compromise bill would allow separate rooms

BY KEVIN McDERMOTT > kmcdermott@post-dispatch.com > 217-782-4912 | (48) Comments | Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 12:34 pm

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The question is still smoldering in Illinois this week: Should the state re-allow smoking in its casinos — after banning it in all indoor public places more than two years ago — as a way of recouping gaming losses from Missouri and other neighbors?

An Illinois House committee today advanced a bill that would allow Illinois casinos to set up separate smoking rooms for gamblers. The bill, HB1850 (House Amendment 1), would require “state of the art” air-filtration systems in the rooms, and anyone who wanted to work there would have to apply separately and sign a waiver acknowleging the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Representative André M. Thapedi (D) 32nd District IL

“I’m a non-smoker. I’m also an asthmatic. But I can count,” state Rep. André M. Thapedi, D-Chicago, told the House Executive Committee as he presented the bill. He cited estimates that Illinois has lost some $200 million a year since the state’s landmark indoor smoking ban took effect in January 2008.

The casino industry says the facilities in East St. Louis and other border areas around the state are losing customers to casinos in adjacent states where people are allowed to smoke. Illinois heavily taxes casino income, and proponents of resuming smoking in the casinos say better profits at the tables and slots could help alleviate the state’s crushing budget deficit.

Earlier this month, another measure was introduced that would open up smoking entirely in the casinos, with the condition that the ban would go back into effect for any casino whose border competition bans smoking. That bill (HB1846) passed the same committee two weeks ago, and is pending in the House.

Thapedi’s bill was presented as a compromise that would continue to limit smoking, while allowing enough of it to lure gamblers back to Illinois. It passed the committee, but neither side in the debate appeared to be embracing it.

Opponents, including Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association, cited data showing that the Casino Queen in East St. Louis had high smoke content in its air throughout the facility even when it used to have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, and they said experts don’t believe it’s possible to filtrate smoke-filled air to safe levels. Meanwhile, state Rep. Daniel Burke, D-Chicago, sponsor of the earlier measure to re-allow smoking, questioned whether the latest proposal would really help the casinos by allowing smoking on such a limited basis.

Burke and Drea started getting into it at one point, with Burke demanding: “Ms. Drea, do you have recommendation on how we can recover that kind of revenue?” Drea responded that the state would save billions in health care costs by further discouraging smoking.

The bill now moves to the full House.