Anti-smoking activist calls Clayton lawsuit “flippant”
BY MARGARET GILLERMAN • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 5:36 pm
Comments (15 as of 3/10/11 @ 4:46 pm)
CLAYTON • Puffing on cigars, and with cameras rolling, W. Bevis Schock and Hugh A. Eastwood last week handed out copies of their lawsuit challenging Clayton’s ban in parks and other outdoor places.
They stood – legally – on the sidewalk just outside Shaw Park.
This week, Martin Pion and friends from his organization, Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) held a news conference near the new inclusion playground inside the park – but on the other side of the park. They handed out literature sharply criticizing the suit.
Pion, in his quiet British way, said the suit, which contains dialogue from a Marx Bothers movie and other humor, was “irrational.”
“I find it a flippant lawsuit … being done for the publicity more than anything else,” Pion said. “Smoking isn’t something you should impose on others.”
He said that second-hand smoke — indoors or outdoors — endangered health and caused diseases.With him were Don and Kay Young, whose non-profit group Young Choices Inc. visits schools to talk about the dangers of smoking. Also there was Vivian Dietemann, who has asthma and is highly smoke-sensitive.
Young described his bouts with throat cancer and severe cardiovascular disease. Because of operations to save his life from cancer, he can no longer speak on his own. He speaks through an electro-larynx in what he calls “robot-like” speech.
“It’s upsetting to me that people think they have the right to smoke in front of other people and in their faces,” Don Young said through his electro-larynx. “Children don’t need to be around this and in a public park, that’s where you find children.”
The suit argues that the ban denies Gallagher his constitutional rights. In specific, it cites the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.
The suit also argues that the ban discriminates against smokers, shows an irrational dislike of smokers and is arbitrary and capricious. It says the ban violates the Missouri Constitution’s guarantee of the “pursuit of happiness.”
Dietemann said that many courts have said that smoking is not a “fundamental right.” The suit claims it is a “fundamental right” that is “part and parcel of ancient American history, traditions and customs,” including American Indian peace pipes.
Pion argued his points in a two page rebuttal to the suit. He ended it with one of the group’s mottos: “Smoking (like sex) should only be done in private between consenting adults.” Another is: “Smoke-free air for non-smokers and smoke-free lives for children.”
The suit names as defendants the city of Clayton and Mayor Linda Goldstein, City Manager Craig Owens, Parks Director Patty DeForrest and Police Chief Thomas J. Byrne.
Nearly 500 communities around the U.S. have banned smoking in public parks. The Clayton community in surveys has strongly endorsed a smoking ban, including in outdoor places.
Clayton enacted an indoor ban on July 1. The outdoor ordinance, which became effective Jan. 1, bars lighting up in parks, on playgrounds and all other city-owned or leased facilities. That includes city-owned parking garages and lots.
The law allows smoking on sidewalks, streets and in alleys.