Monthly Archives: January 2011

2011/01/24 P-D: “Dooley calls for toughening up county smoking ban”

A long front-page story above the fold in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch focused on some of the anomalies in the newly effective St. Louis City and County smoke-free air laws, and some problems with enforcement. If County Executive Charley Dooley is serious about addressing the issues and county council members are supportive, this would be a good time to review the exemptions in the County ordinance which are creating headaches.

A uniform law was preferred by former County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, but the first version she introduced, which had few exemptions, such as none for small bars, was rejected by the County Council. That’s when she introduced a watered down version to satisfy Councilman Steve Stegert’s demand to exempt the small bars in his district, casino gaming floors, and Lambert airport’s smoking rooms.

Those exemptions have created a clumsy bureaucratic mess and the sooner they’re removed the better for everyone, including employees still being subjected to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Remember: No one should have endure secondhand tobacco smoke in order to work.

TO REPORT A VIOLATION OF THE LAW, please click on this link:

http://www.stlouisco.com/doh/605/Complaint.html

Related Stories

         Smoking ban goes to Cape Girardeau voters April 5
         Woman heading anti-smoking effort finds fault with County Council
         Information on smoking bans in St. Louis and St. Louis County
         Mo. House rejects ban on smoking Capitol offices

Dooley calls for toughening up county smoking ban

BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-727-6234 AND DAVID HUNN • dhunn@post-dispatch.com > 314-436-2239 | Comments (120 at 1:55 pm 1/24/2011) | Posted: Monday, January 24, 2011 7:00 am

JANUARY 22, 2011 - (left to right) Mindy McKinney from Pacific hangs out with friends including Laurie Sullentrup (center) and Laurie's husband Jim Sullentrup (right) from Union at Hot Shots Sports Bar & Grill Saturday afternoon in Fenton. The bar has been able to dodge the newly installed smoking ban because their food sales make up less than twenty five percent of the combined food and beverages.
         Post-Dispatch photo by Johnny Andrews

St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley has called the raft of smoking ban exemptions handed out to county establishments in recent weeks “unacceptable” and said he will meet soon with the County Council to try to change the situation.
“Something has gone astray,” Dooley said in an interview. “What the County Council had intended when they crafted the smoking ban legislation has produced some unintended consequences. The result we have right now — 110 exemptions — is simply unacceptable.”
         Both the county and the city of St. Louis began their bans on Jan. 2. In the city, officials have yet to grant an exemption as they wait for inspectors to get to each bar and check owners’ records. But in the meantime, some establishments in both areas — ranging from the Saratoga Lanes in Maplewood to the Missouri Athletic Club downtown — seem to be ignoring the ban.
         Dooley said he planned to meet with the council as early as Tuesday to find ways to strengthen the smoking ban in the county. When asked whether possible adjustments could include reversing all exemptions and implementing a complete ban, Dooley said, “Everything will be on the table.”
         He added, “The legislation that was passed in 2009 is obviously very flawed, and the responsible thing will be to fix it.”
         The county ban was passed by 65 percent of the voters in November 2009. In the city, the Board of Aldermen had approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage.
         If it chose, the County Council could change the ordinance on its own without submitting it to public vote again.
         In both the city and the county, establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue.          The city has an added requirement: A bar must be no larger than 2,000 square feet.
         In crafting the legislation, County Council members said they wanted exemptions to protect small neighborhood bars whose owners feared a smoking ban would drive them out of business.
         But included among the 110 venues that have received exemptions in the county are larger establishments, including bars inside bowling alleys and restaurant-bars such as Hot Shots. The chain has nine locations in the area, including five in the county and one in the city. Each of the five county locations had annual combined food and beverage sales of over $1 million, but food sales in each accounted for just under 25 percent of the total.
         Dooley cited the Hot Shots exemptions as being among the “unintended consequences” of the smoking ban ordinance, which covers both municipalities and unincorporated areas.
         “Big places like Hot Shots are not what the County Council had in mind for exemptions,” he said.
         Hot Shots owner Daniel Volmert said his business had played by the county’s rules.
         “We followed the county’s criteria to the letter. We applied for the exemptions so we could be on a level playing field with other bars that got exemptions,” he said. “If they vote to remove my exemptions, it certainly will hurt my business.”
         Saratoga Lanes in Maplewood is among 32 county establishments that have exemptions pending. But last week, patrons freely lit up inside the bowling alley.
         County Counselor Patricia Redington said they are breaking the law. “There is no exemption-pending-exemption provision, so smoking is not permitted under the code,” she said.
         Saratoga Lanes management did not return calls for comment.
         The county’s Health Department is responsible for enforcing the ban. So far, however, the department has not issued citations.
         “We’ve had about 75 complaints, but most of them have been regarding places that have the exemptions,” said spokesman Craig LeFebvre.
         He said smoking ban enforcement would be handled like restaurant inspections, in which first-time violators will have 10 days to conform before citations are issued.
         Penalties are the same in the county and the city: A smoker faces a fine of up to $50 for each occurrence, and an owner of an establishment faces a fine of up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for the second in a year and up to $500 for each additional violation in a year.
         On Saturday night, organizers of the Cigar Club Annual Smoker, held each January at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton, made clear where they stood on the issue of smoking bans.
         “The heat is off and the smoking is on!” a ring announcer bellowed Saturday evening to more than 100 formally dressed patrons who enjoyed pricey cigars and a night of boxing in the hotel ballroom.
         Clayton already had its own ban that predated the county’s. James Cole, director of food and beverage for the hotel, contended the event did not violate the ban.
         “This is legal in the way we interpret the law,” Cole said. “This is a private event in an enclosed, private room for our guests.”
         Clayton’s law allows an exemption for private clubs, which it defines as nonprofit fraternal or social groups that restrict admission to members and their guests.
         Bill Hannegan, whose group Keep St. Louis Free has opposed smoking bans across the area, said the hotel’s decision and its allowing the group to meet in the ballroom represented a “very creative interpretation of the law.”
         He argued that it was proof of how different interpretations and inconsistent enforcement make smoking bans impractical.
         “This just shows how the law doesn’t work,” Hannegan said.

NO CITY EXEMPTIONS

While bars in the county have been put on notice not to presume they are exempt pending official approval, the city has taken the opposite tack.
         As of late last week, the city had received 178 exemption applications from bars. So far, the city hasn’t approved any. But city health director Pam Walker said bars that think they’re exempt should act as if they are.
         In the meantime, Health Department inspectors are visiting each to ensure they’re no larger than the city law’s 2,000-square-foot limit. They’re also checking sales figures to make sure applicants are earning no more than 25 percent of their income from food.
         The city’s liquor license office fields five to 10 phone calls a day on the subject, staff said. And private contractors, paid to help businesses get licenses, say they’re swamped by owner requests to find some way to get an exemption.
         “All of a sudden, they’re like, ‘Boy, I’d make more money letting people smoke than flipping hamburgers,'” said Joe Kelly, who has worked for more than 20 years to help businesses get city licenses.
         And many are puffing away as they work through the process.
         Nick’s Pub on Manchester Avenue, for instance, is too large to get an exemption, according to the city’s most recent measurements. But owner John McDonald said there’s no way he’s going smoke-free now. Instead, he said, he’ll try to remove some square footage in his west St. Louis bar.
         Milo’s Bocce Garden, a corner bar and restaurant on the Hill owned by city Alderman Joe Vollmer, was going to allow smoking. Then Vollmer realized the new law does not permit anyone under 21 inside smoking bars. He had to choose between smokers and families.

         “People come in after Mass with their families!” Vollmer said.
         His website now announces that Milo’s is going smoke-free — but not until Feb. 7.
In downtown St. Louis, the Missouri Athletic Club is still hosting cigar smoking happy hours, ashtrays out on display.
         The Health Department visited the club early in January, Walker said, after getting some complaints. She said that a MAC manager openly admitted the club was letting patrons smoke but claimed he couldn’t change the situation without a decision by the board.
         Chris Lawhorn, president of the MAC, wouldn’t discuss the issue with the Post-Dispatch. The MAC, he said, is private.
         On Friday night, at least a half-dozen men stood around the club’s first floor bar, tumblers in one hand, cigars in the other.
         Walker said if the club doesn’t comply by Feb. 4, the city will begin to levy fines.
         “They have to comply, like everybody else,” Walker said. “We have to be consistent. We have to be fair. And that means everybody has to comply.”

Steve Giegerich of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

2011/01/19: Jeff City News Tribune Letters & Editorial plus Post-Dispatch Matson cartoon caption competition

The following Letter to the Editor, published in the Jefferson City News Tribune, was from Janet Wilson, M.Ed., MPA, formerly Chief, Health Promotion Unit, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

It was accompanied the same day by a Jefferson City News Tribune editorial also in favor of a smoke-free State Capitol, reinforcing the support for this measure.

Legislators opposed to making the State Capitol smoke-free may think the matter is behind them now but that may well prove to be wishful thinking. The secondhand smoke isn’t going away and objections to it won’t either.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch weekly cartoon caption competition took as its subject State Capitol smoking (see below). It attracted 361 submissions from readers, making it hard for the editors to pick a winner, who ended up (appropriately, perhaps) being Craig Kolb of Jefferson City (aka “Snowman,” who posted plenty of others). Some of the better ones I submitted on behalf of MoGASP are pasted below, following the cartoon.

R.J. Matson's St. Louis Post-Dispatch Punch Line Cartoon 011411. Captioned version published January 20, 2011

That’s the only place tobacco lobbyist John Britton can smoke, with Jefferson City going smoke-free.
I think we’ve found Jefferson City’s “Smoking Section.”
Smoking? Capitol!
I thought this was the People’s House. Turns out, it’s the Smoke House!
Looks like the tobacco lobbyists got here ahead of us!
I’ll join you in a moment. I just have to get my respirator.
I thought “smoke-filled rooms” were a thing of the past.
Hmm. Looks like they just make laws for the rest of us, just not for themselves.
Oops! I forgot to bring my gas mask!
I think they put the sign up just for us!
Secondhand smoke pollution? Looks like we won’t see much leadership on THAT issue!
I think the message is: “If you’re smoke-sensitive don’t bother coming in.”
Nobody ever said Missouri was a leader on smoke-free air.
I believe this is where Big Tobacco hangs out
Thank goodness the state motto, “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law,” doesn’t apply to us.
I guess this is why it’s called the “Smoke Me” state.

Lawmakers set poor example by failing to make Capitol entirely smoke-free

Janet Wilson
Jefferson City
Jefferson City News Tribune
January 19, 2011

Dear Editor:
I was troubled that the Missouri House of Representatives defeated a resolution to make the state Capitol entirely smoke-free, including House members’ offices. It was troubling to hear one House member ask when attacks on personal liberties were going to stop.
The state Capitol and the offices therein are the property of the state of Missouri, not owned by individual members of the House. All other state office buildings have been smoke-free for many years where state employees are not allowed to smoke in their offices, or for that matter, in a designated smoking area.
Why should members of the House of Representative, also employees of the state, be allowed to smoke in their offices and expose their staff, colleagues, and importantly constituents to their tobacco smoke?
What kind of role modeling is this for the thousands of school children that visit the state Capitol every year?

———————————————————————

OUR OPINION
Jefferson City News Tribune
January 19, 2011

Lawmakers burn public with exemption

Smoking remains on the list of rules that apply to almost everyone except elected lawmakers.
         Most private and public employees — including state workers — must walk outdoors during breaks to smoke. The smoke break may be accompanied by rain, sleet, snow, rain or whatever inclement element may be in play that day.
         Employees in the Capitol may take advantage of an indoor, designated smoking area in the northeast portion of the basement garage.
         Senators and representatives, however, need not leave the cozy confines of their offices, where they determine the smoking policy.
         We find this arrangement inequitable.
         Both the Senate and House, to their credit, prohibit smoking in their respective chambers and galleries.
         House members recently voted to continue the exemption for their offices, a policy also shared by senators.
         We encourage reconsideration of this policy.
         The public justifiably is resentful when lawmakers — whether local, state or federal — enact or exempt themselves from policies that apply to the general public.
         Adding fuel to the rancor caused by this elitist attitude is that smoking has become a matter of public policy.
         To advance public health, governments have adopted smoking regulations and prohibitions.
         In the interest of equity, lawmakers deserve to follow the same rules they promulgate.
         We urge legislators to set an example. Eliminate smoking in the Capitol.

2011/01/18: Rep. Jeanette Oxford during debate on Jan. 13, 2011, to make Mo. House totally smoke-free

This story, by St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau Chief, Virginia Young, appeared last week, and highlighted some of the more absurd arguments to greet Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford’s proposal to make the House side of the Missouri State Capitol smoke-free.

I’ve added a photo of Rep. Oxford, taken while she was at the microphone listening to comments from Rep. Parkinson which fit into the “silly” category.

Rep. Michael Brown, D-Kansas City, asked her how the rule would be enforced: Wouldn’t people just smoke in the bathroom?

Of course the answer is that some would, because no law is perfect, but that doesn’t invalidate the intent of the law.

If we were only going to approve laws likely to enjoy 100% compliance there would be virtually NO laws on the books, not even against murder!

Reporter Virginia Young notes it lost on a mostly party line vote of 113 to 45, but that 113 included ALL the House Republicans.

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (D) at the microphone on the House floor during debate of her Amendment #5 to make the Missouri House smoke-free.
Tim Bommel, House Photographer

House votes to allow smoking in legislators’ offices

BY VIRGINIA YOUNG > vyoung@post-dispatch.com > 573-635-6178 | (22) Comments | Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 5:25 pm

JEFFERSON CITY — Republicans, who hold a commanding majority in the Missouri House, trounced a proposal Thursday that would have barred legislators from smoking in their Capitol offices.
         They agreed, however, to prohibit smoking in the members-only gallery at the rear of the House chamber.
         Smoking is already barred in areas of the Capitol controlled by the executive branch, as well as in committee rooms and other common areas. But both the House and Senate allow members to smoke in their offices.
         The request to bar smoking in House offices came from Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis.
         Oxford, who has asthma, said many legislators’ offices share the same ventilation system, so it’s impossible to confine smoke to a single area.
         She said the House should consider the health of staff members and schoolchildren touring the building.
         “As long as we allow smoking in this building, we’re denying access to some people” with asthma and other health conditions, she said.

Rep. Mark Parkinson (R)

But Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, said preventing legislators from smoking in their offices would put the Legislature on “a steep slippery slope dealing with our personal liberties and freedoms.”
         Noting that some people have reactions to nuts, Parkinson said: “Should we ban peanut consumption in our offices as well? What about secondhand peanut-eating? What about running with scissors?

Rep. Tim Jones, Majority Floor Leader

         Oxford’s proposed amendment lost on a mostly party line vote, 113 to 45, after Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, urged GOP members to reject it.
         Jones said members are often in the Capitol at least 12 hours a day and it would be difficult for smokers “to go anywhere else.”
         By making the rear gallery smoke-free, “we’ve made a huge step,” Jones said.

2011/01/16 P-D: “Smoking exemptions assailed”

The above headline in the print version of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch on page B1 of the Community section was changed to Woman heading anti-smoking effort finds fault with County Council in the on-line version.

No matter. It underscores some exasperation expressed by Pat Lindsey with local tobacco control efforts.

Pat has been a strong and effective advocate for smoke-free air and tobacco cessation efforts for many years locally, going back to the ASSIST (American Stop Smoking Intervention Study) program and including underage sting operations on stores selling cigarettes illegally to children. She is currently Executive Director of Tobacco-Free St. Louis, Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

The latest effort should further help to expand secondhand smoke protections for employees in cities in North St. Louis County, as well as elsewhere.

Related Stories

Smoking ban begins to clear air in St. Louis city, county
Smoking still allowed in Missouri’s legislative offices
Area colleges extend smoking ban to entire campus
O’Fallon, Mo., smoking ban set for April 5 ballot
County admits mistake in smoke ban exemptions
St. Louis County casino lounges get smoking ban exemptions

Woman heading anti-smoking effort finds fault with County Council

BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-727-6234 | (39) Comments | Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2011 12:00 am

January 13, 2011--- Pat Lindsey, director of Tobacco-Free St. Louis, poses in her office. Emily Rasinski erasinski@post-dispatch.com

Smoking ban begins to clear air in St. Louis city, county
Smoking still allowed in Missouri’s legislative offices
Area colleges extend smoking ban to entire campus
O’Fallon, Mo., smoking ban set for April 5 ballot
County admits mistake in smoke ban exemptions
St. Louis County casino lounges get smoking ban exemptions
CLAYTON • Last year, when St. Louis County divvied up $7.6 million of a federal stimulus grant to help end smoking, it gave $500,000 to Tobacco-Free St. Louis.
         The county set two goals for the group and its leader, Pat Lindsey, to accomplish over the course of the two-year project.
         The first was to persuade at least two additional municipalities to adopt smoking bans more restrictive than the county’s.
         The other was to persuade the County Council to extend its smoking ban to all workplaces, restaurants and bars by 2012.
         Since then, two additional municipalities – Brentwood and Creve Coeur – have joined Ballwin, Clayton and Kirkwood in establishing anti-smoking ordinances stricter than the county’s.
         But Lindsey said the second mandate became a tougher task after the County Council’s recent 4-2 vote to grant two lounges in Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights an exemption from the new smoking ban.
         The casino bars had asserted they met the exemption requirements as venues with food sales that were less than 25 percent of their total revenue.
         “I feel like the county itself has become my biggest obstacle in fulfilling our goals,” said Lindsey, 61. “We’re supposed to be tightening up the ordinance, and the County Council is adding exemptions to it. That (exemption) just flies in the face of the intent of the exemptions, which were intended to protect those little hole-in-the-wall bars that sell beef jerky and beer nuts, not lounges at big casinos.”
         Immediately after the council’s vote on the casino exemption, Lindsey said she complained to County Executive Charlie A. Dooley.
         “I cornered him in the council chambers, and Dooley told me, ‘It will all work out.’ And then he pointed at the council and said, ‘We never wanted the casinos included in that ban anyway.’ And I told him, ‘It isn’t what you want. It’s what the people want. And an overwhelming majority – over 65 percent – voted to ban smoking.”
         Dooley disputed Lindsey’s account of their conversation. “What I communicated to her was that I did not vote on this legislation. It was a decision of the County Council,” he said.
         Dooley said that he supported the smoking ban because “it was the will of the county voters.”
         The smoking ban that voters passed in 2009 had built-in exemptions for the gambling floors at Harrah’s and at the county’s other gambling venue, River City Casino in Lemay. That exemption had been added so that county casinos would not lose business to Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, where smoking is allowed. Harrah’s needed special county legislation for its lounges because Harrah’s liquor license was issued by the Missouri Gaming Commission. The county’s original ordinance said that only bars licensed by the county would qualify for exemptions.
         River City Casino has two areas on the casino floor that serve only liquor. They already are exempt because they are on the casino’s gambling floor.
         That’s the rule in the city of St. Louis, where smokers can light up in all or parts of four of the eight bars and restaurants at Lumière Place downtown, said casino spokesman Mack Bradley. He said the city’s ordinance allows smoking on the casino floor and in sections of bars extending onto that floor.
         Thus, three bars have smoking and nonsmoking sections, he said. The city also allows smoking in Lumière’s VIP lounge, reached only from the gambling floor by casino card holders, Bradley said. Four Lumière bars are smoke-free, he said.
         County Council Chairman Steve Stenger, who voted with the majority in approving the exemption for Harrah’s, said the vote should not be construed as a sign that the council intended to obstruct Lindsey’s goal of strengthening the smoking ban.
         “The result of that vote was simply that bars in casinos wound up being on the same playing field as anyone else who qualified for an exemption,” he said.
         For her part, Lindsey acknowledged being hesitant to criticize county leadership. “I’m in a kind of tough spot because they are paying my salary,” she said. “But I have to think of the greater good.” Lindsey’s annual salary is about $61,000. She oversees a staff of four, two of whom are paid $45,000 a year, another $40,000, and another $13 an hour.
         The grant for the project runs out in March 2012.

‘We Will Win’
         Lindsey lives with her husband of 40 years in Black Jack; they have two grown children.
Lindsey was a former middle-school teacher in the Hazelwood School District who took a job with the American Cancer Society in 1988. She left that organization to join the nonprofit group Tobacco-Free St. Louis (then called Tobacco-Free Missouri, Greater St. Louis) in 1993.
         For years, she said, conventional wisdom dictated that anti-smoking bans were best accomplished by persuading area leaders to enact ordinances.
         “We were told never to go for a ballot initiative because the tobacco industry had too much money to throw around and they’d use it to influence voters,” she said.
         But after years of trying to work with local leaders, Lindsey’s group took a cue from counterparts in other areas of the country and began working to put smoking bans on the ballot.
         “Now we know that people are overwhelmingly against smoking and if we can get the issue on a ballot, we will win,”she said.
         Bill Hannegan, a leading critic of smoking bans, acknowledged Lindsey’s tenacity. But he said her group overreaches in seeking to strengthen a ban that he said already goes too far.
         “I like Pat a lot; she’s a very sweet lady. But her group’s brand of institutionalized opposition – in which they keep pushing no matter what, and are never satisfied that they’ve got enough – it takes a toll on private individuals and small businesses,” he said.
         Hannegan has been resisting smoking restrictions for about six years. He conceded that Lindsey was beginning to take a toll on him, as well.
         “You can only fight this battle for so long,” he said. “People run out of money. But she has an ongoing source of funds and is always going to be pushing for a new restriction. And we don’t need any more restrictions.”
         Lindsey said her group will next try to persuade Hazelwood, Ferguson and Maplewood to adopt smoking bans more restrictive than the county’s.
         She said she will also try to persuade the County Council to set a sunset clause for 2016 for all smoking exemptions. The city of St. Louis already has such a clause in place for that year, meaning that bars with exemptions will become smoke-free at that time.
         As of last week, the county had granted 111 such exemptions.
         Stenger, with the County Council, said he was inclined to favor such a clause.
         “All smoking exemptions phased out in 2016? I would say that sounds as of right now, without having advantage of seeing an economic study on the issue, something I would lean toward,” he said.
         Dooley declined to say whether he would support such a move. “We’re still in the early phases of this ban, and I think we need to see how it works out.”
         He added, “I do hope in five years that the entire state is smoke-free.”

Tim O’Neil of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

2011/1/13 P-D: “Smoking still allowed in Missouri’s legislative offices”

Posted below is Missouri GASP’s official press release following the defeat in the Missouri House of Representatives of a proposal for the House to go totally smoke-free:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 13, 2011 Missouri GASP [Group Against Smoking Pollution] Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri.

PRESS RELEASE: Big Tobacco wins with defeat of Rules amendment to make Mo. House smoke-free

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford’s proposed amendment to the House Rules to make the entire House side of the State Capitol smoke-free just came to a vote. It lost when the Republican majority voted unanimously to oppose it. That was a huge missed opportunity.

Before this vote the House Rules Committee had agreed to make the Member’s Lounge off the House floor smoke-free, which will greatly aid those like Rep. Oxford, who is a highly smoke-sensitive asthmatic.

But the bottom line is: Big Tobacco has again prevailed in the State Capitol and this will likely lead to more smoking in members’ offices, not less. Wherever it occurs in the Capitol, smoking pollutes the air everyone must breathe. Just opening a window in a House member’s office will not eliminate the secondhand tobacco smoke.

Representatives who worked so hard on this – particularly Jeanette Mott Oxford, Jill Schupp, and new members Rory Ellinger and Carla May – deserve our gratitude.

By contrast, although Speaker Steven Tilley and Majority Floor Leader Timothy Jones allowed Rep. Oxford to offer her amendment and not kill it, the Republican leadership deserves censure for evidently discouraging their members from voting their preference on this important issue.

That is not how democracy is supposed to work, especially when it comes to an issue of public health and welfare, on which government should take the lead.

Once more leaders in the Missouri legislature have made a mockery of the state’s motto:

“The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.”

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, who played a key role in this effort for smoke-free air in the State Capitol, published the following after the defeat of her amendment:

Please click image above to enlarge.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch story is pasted in full below:

Smoking still allowed in Missouri’s legislative offices

BY VIRGINIA YOUNG • vyoung@post-dispatch.com > 573-635-6178 | (61) Comments | Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 11:30 am

Related Stories

Big St. Louis tobacco trial jury selection in final stretch
Area colleges extend smoking ban to entire campus
O’Fallon, Mo., smoking ban set for April 5 ballot
Springfield residents to vote on smoking ban
Cape Girardeau smoking ban not advanced

UPDATE: At the request of Republican leaders, the full House today defeated an amendment to ban smoking in legislators’ offices. The vote was 113-45.

JEFFERSON CITY • Smoke-free is becoming the norm in workplaces across Missouri. But in state government, you can still light up in one office building: the Capitol.
The House and Senate allow smoking in representatives’ and senators’ office suites on all four floors of the Capitol, as well as in a members-only gallery at the rear of the third-floor House chamber.
Now, that policy is coming under attack from health-conscious legislators in both political parties. They say they’re standing up for children in tour groups and people with asthma and other respiratory problems who can’t breathe in smoky spaces.
“This is the only building owned by the state where you can smoke,” said freshman Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City. “You can’t even smoke in prison.”
Those pushing to bar smoking have wrung one concession from Republican House leaders, who agreed to ban it in the rear gallery, where legislators often grab meals between votes.
But the House Rules Committee has so far rejected pitches to go further. With the Legislature sometimes working 14-hour days, opponents of a smoking ban say it would impose a hardship on legislators and staffers who smoke.
“I don’t think there was a consensus … to take away people’s individual prerogative to do something in the privacy of their offices,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country.
Some Democrats will try to reverse that decision when the House debates the rules, possibly as early as today.
Across the Rotunda, the Senate has already banned smoking in its rear gallery, as well as common areas such as committee rooms, hallways, restrooms and elevators.
But senators, too, can smoke in their offices. No members have proposed to change that.
Areas of the Capitol controlled by the executive branch — parts of the first and second floors — do bar smoking.
The issue is coming up in the House, in part, because legislators in the minority party (Democrats) are crammed into small cubicles, which are double-decked on the Capitol’s high-ceilinged first floor.
With no seniority, Ellinger, for example, ended up in what’s known as the ‘smoking complex,” where at least two of the 10 legislators smoke. So do some staffers. The offices share a ventilation system.
“Someone can confine their smoking to their cubicle but the smoke goes everywhere,” said Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis.
Smokers say the problem is overstated.
Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, said that when he smokes, he closes his office door, opens the window and turns on a fan.
“We blow it outside,” he said.
Meadows said he is trying to quit and hasn’t had a cigarette in eight days. But even if he quits for good, he supports letting lawmakers smoke in their offices.
“When we are here late at night, this is our home,” Meadows said. “As long as I’m blowing it out the window and it’s not bothering anybody, what difference does it make?”
Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville, who persuaded the House Republican Caucus to prohibit smoking in the rear gallery, said that with the House’s odd hours, a broader ban would impose “a hardship” on smokers.
Some remember when the problem was much worse.
As late as the 1990s, smoking was allowed throughout the Capitol, including in the ornate House and Senate chambers and in packed committee rooms.
“Fifteen years ago, the majority (of legislators) were smokers,” said Sen. Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake.
“Today, the majority are nonsmokers.”
Also, growing concern about the danger of secondhand smoke has galvanized support for measures banning smoking in public places. Jefferson City voters passed such a measure in November, though it doesn’t govern goings-on in the Capitol.
But the culture is changing.
Back in 1995, the Senate made light of the issue, passing a “courtesy resolution” declaring the area surrounding longtime tobacco and beer lobbyist John Britton “an official Missouri State Senate designated smoking area.”
While the resolution had no force of law, Britton used to puff away in a third-floor hallway corner.
He’s more careful these days.
On Wednesday, Britton was spotted walking down the hall with an unlit cigarette in his hand, heading for a friendly Senate office.
“I just try to be discreet with my smoking,” he said.

Posted in Govt-and-politics, Missouri on Thursday, January 13, 2011 11:30 am Updated: 2:54 pm.

2011/1/12 Mo News Horizon: “Mo. reps rule out smoking ban for offices”

The following story, which ran today, still focuses on what wasn’t accomplished by the Rules Committee, but at least it gives more space to what happened, and credit to Stan Cowan, who prepared detailed testimony in favor of comprehensive protection from secondhand smoke.

Mo. reps rule out smoking ban for offices
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon
http://www.semissourian.com/story/1694324.html

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The number of places Missouri state representatives can smoke is dwindling, but they will still be allowed to smoke in the confines of their Capitol offices.
The House Rules Committee on Tuesday passed the rules the House will run by for the next two years. Included in the list of changes to previous rules was the banning of smoking in the rear (east) lounge area, immediately behind the House chamber.
         The common area is a place for representatives to retreat from the floor for conversations with other lawmakers, a chance to make phone calls and check messages, and even, at times, grab a quick nap. It was also where, since smoking was banned from the House floor in the late 1980s, representatives could light up without penalty.
         But in recent years, more and more representatives have objected to the smoky atmosphere of the rear lounge, while some have even become physically ill.
         “For me, it’s a matter of life and death,” Rep. Jeannette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis, told the rules committee. Mott Oxford is a severe asthmatic and the smell of smoke can set off an attack, she said. She favors a complete ban on smoking in the Capitol, and approached the rules committee Tuesday to ask for a ban on smoking in all House controlled portions of the building.
         Currently, House members and their staff can smoke in their offices, but nowhere else. Most representatives who do smoke usually wait until the evening hour when the Capitol is virtually devoid of visitors. A quick tour around the building at night finds the smell of cigarettes, and the occasional cigar and pipe, wafting through most of the corridors.
         It has not been that long ago when smoking was prevalent in the Capitol, with state senators being allowed to smoke on the floor of the Senate chamber during debate as late as the mid-1990s.
Smoking is now forbidden in any common areas around the Senate chamber, but, like the representatives, senators are allowed to smoke in their offices.
         And there is an exception to all smoking rules on the Senate side of the building for veteran tobacco lobbyist John Britton, who has traditionally had a waiver to smoke wherever he may be.
         “I think that we need to have a smoke-free capitol,” Mott Oxford said. “It undercuts the message that we give to children not to smoke when tens of thousands of Missouri school children come to this building to tour each year, and clearly can smell smoke.”
Mott Oxford also stressed the dangers of secondhand smoke. The committee also heard testimony from Stan Cowan, a research aid for the department of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, who said studies show that there is no good remedy for problems associated with secondhand smoke.
         “Separate smoking areas for smokers and non smokers do not work,” Cowan told committee members.
         But arguments for a smoking ban fell on deaf ears. The committee did not make a motion in regards to a further smoking ban and passed the House rules by a voice vote.
         I don’t think it’s a big problem,” said rules committee chairman Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country. “We don’t want to take away people’s individual rights to smoke in their offices and other non-public areas.”

2011/1/12: Letters from Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford for smoke-free State Capitol

Two hard-hitting letters from State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, one of several legislators in the State Capitol in Jefferson City leading the fight for a smoke-free environment in the People’s House.

Let’s make all of Jefferson City smoke-free

| No Comments Posted | Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 6:21 pm

I sent a letter to Speaker of the House Steven Tilley thanking him for his opening day speech and his call that we “lead by example.” I asked him to use his position to help Missouri’s Capitol Building take an important step toward truly leading by example. This is the year to make our Capitol a 100% smokefree workplace.

         The dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke are well-documented, as are Missouri’s appalling statistics in terms of high smoking rate for adults and youth, dollars spent on tobacco-related illness, and failure to spend state funds on comprehensive tobacco use prevention efforts that have proven effective in other states.

         Implementing a smokefree policy in the seat of state government is a small, but important first step, and one that could save someone’s life.
         It is also crucial if we want to stop the hypocrisy of telling Missouri’s children not to smoke, and then inviting tens of thousands of them to tour the Capitol Building each year – a building that reeks of tobacco smoke. No other state building allows smoking, and elected officials should accept their responsibility to have a policy that sets a good example for Missouri’s children and to follow the same rules that we ask other state workers to follow.

Jeanette Mott Oxford
State Representative, District 59
St. Louis

Your Opinion: Lawmaker urges smoke-free Capitol
Jeanette Mott Oxford, State Representative, District 59
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Jefferson City News Tribune

Dear Editor:

Recently, I sent a letter to Speaker of the House Steven Tilley thanking him for his opening day speech and his call that we “lead by example.”
         I asked him to use his position to help Missouri’s Capitol building take an important step toward truly leading by example. This is the year to make our capital a 100 percent smoke-free workplace.
The dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke are well-documented, as are Missouri’s appalling statistics in terms of high smoking rate for adults and youth, dollars spent on tobacco-related illness, and failure to spend state funds on comprehensive tobacco use prevention efforts that have proven effective in other states. Implementing a smoke-free policy in the seat of state government is a small, but important first step, and one that could save someone’s life.
         It is also crucial if we want to stop the hypocrisy of telling Missouri’s children not to smoke, and then inviting tens of thousands of them to tour the Capitol building each year — a building that reeks of tobacco smoke.
         No other state building allows smoking, and elected officials should accept their responsibility to have a policy that sets a good example for Missouri’s children and to follow the same rules that we ask other state workers to follow.