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The following is a MoGASP transcript of the broadcast which aired at 6 am on Saturday morning. Images were captured from the TV with a digital camera, hence the quality.
“Extra Edition” from NEWS 4 and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In recent years, more and more local communities have adopted smoking bans in public buildings, restaurants, even bars and lodges.
Now, smokers are saying a new ban in Clayton goes too far, and they’re fighting back.
The new ban prohibits smoking in public parks.
The lawsuit was filed last week alleging a violation of constitutional rights. News 4 Jasmine Huta filed this report the day the lawsuit was filed.”
[Jasmine Huta’s News 4 report, which is posted on the mogasp blog here, was shown.]
John Knicely:”That report was filed last week when the lawsuit challenging the outdoor smoking ban was filed. Since then anti-smoking advocates have also spoken out, voicing their strong support for the smoking ban in public parks. It’s a spirited debate.Joining us this morning to explain both sides are Beavis Shock, right next to me: he’s the Clayton attorney who filed the lawsuit. And down on the end is Martin Pion. He’s a long-time anti-smoking advocate and leader of the local chapter of GASP. That stands for Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution.
So we’ll start with you Beavis. Where is this lawsuit now in the process?” Beavis Shock: “Well, we just started, er, the other side will be getting their pleading today, and then they have, gosh, 60 days to file an answer.
Er, the law doesn’t work very quickly. Um, er, so we don’t know what their position’s going to be. Clayton may decide that they just, their position is so silly that they want to repeal it, which of course is what we hope.
Um, or they may dig in for a long fight and we’re prepared for the long fight if that’s what they want to do ’cause it’s a freedom issue.
John Knicely: “Martin, you were obviously happy that this ban was put in place. Now that it’s being challenged what are your thoughts?”Martin Pion: “Well let me just correct something: we’re Group Against Smoking Pollution. We used to be Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution. We were lucky if we could get a smoke-free section in a restaurant. That was pretty absurd because the smoke doesn’t stay put. Now were Group Against Smoking Pollution.
And we’re not anti-smoking, we’re pro-smokefree. That’s what we want. We want smoke-free environments. We’re not against smokers, because when you talk about Group Against Smoking Pollution it sounds like you’re against smokers. We’re not.
If this gentleman wants to smoke, it’s fine. He’s not going to do it in here is he, let’s face it. If he smokes in the privacy of his own home it’s fine by us. We don’t have any objection to that.”
John Knicely: “When you look at the smoking bans that have been put in place, one of the main arguments across the nation have been the health risks of secondhand smoke, and so those issues obviously pop up in an indoor environment. But when you look at an outdoor environment where is the argument in your standpoint?”
Martin Pion: “Well, I understand the, why it’s hard to grasp that outdoor smoking should be a problem because we’ve got, er, you know, dilution. It’s obvious. But there’s two things:
One, there are people like this gentleman who we had with us just recently in the park. I don’t know if you can see that: Don Young. (Holding up brochure featuring Don Young of “Young Choices.“)
And another lady who was with us, Vivian Dietemann, who’s an asthmatic and is exceptionally smoke-sensitive. She can’t be anywhere near smoke, and neither can that gentleman. They’re made sick by it.
So I, I’m not as allergic to smoke as they are. In other words I don’t react, I don’t get an asthma attack or anything like that. I don’t have asthma.
But talk to my wife. She doesn’t take me anywhere anymore. She’s French. She doesn’t take me to France anymore because I’m like a ball and chain around her ankle. I’m very sensitive to tobacco smoke, so it doesn’t make me sick but just the smell is a problem. And even in an outdoor environment there’s enough smoke, if there’s smokers around, that I’m going to be going in the opposite direction.
And if you’ve got a park situation, let’s say, and you allow smoking there there’s going to be smokers dotting around in the park, and so you’ll never be, you’ll always be downwind from a smoker if you allow smoking in a park situation.
Now, quite honestly, it’s absurd to allow smoking on a sidewalk and ban it in the park. We want to see no smoking. Period. Except in the privacy of somebody’s home. That’s what we want.”
John Knicely: “Beavis, as you look at the legality of this, you’re questioning the constitutional rights of people being violated here. We know that smoking bans have been held up in indoor places across the country. Er, what do you think as far as, or what have you seen, I should rather say, about different smoking bans in public places outdoors, such as New York City and other places?”“Well, the ban on outdoors is surreal because they have all these beaches. So, you can’t even go have a smoke on a beach. And they assert that this is for some health reason. Now, I’m really sympathetic to, er, Martin’s concern about asthmatics, and his own, he doesn’t want to smell it, I understand that. But how far do you take it?
I mean, a lot of these children can’t be around peanuts. Are we going to ban peanuts in the parks. Maybe we ought to ban peanuts at the ballgame. I mean at some point a person who has these specialized needs has a kind of a duty to work it out with their neighbors. I mean, if these schools now: they’ll have no peanut zones, and that’s indoors.
Now outdoors, I think, if there’s a mother who has her child and a peanut allergy the mother says to the person smoking, hey, my child has a peanut allergy, would you mind moving down a little bit, and they will, ’cause people learn how to interact with each other in a friendly and peaceful manner to solve these little problems.
This morning, I was at Starbucks and a young lady came in. Very honestly, I’m not a perfume expert, but when I smell cheap perfume I know it. Should we ban her because she interferes with my aromatic coffee experience? That’s ridiculous!
What you have to do is let people work these things out. Outdoors is over the top. When we banned alcohol in this country it didn’t work, and the reason it didn’t work was that it was too strong an infringement on people’s liberty. And they reacted the way people normally react when you tell ’em they can’t do something they want to do; they go underground, they do it more, and crime ensues.”
John Knicely: “And real quickly, we’ve only got a few seconds left. Martin, I want your take on this argument.”
Martin Pion: “It’s the slippery slope argument that I hear all the time. “Where is it gonna stop?” Well frankly, I’m not interested in anything else other than secondhand smoke. That’s the problem for us. And these other issues are irrelevant. You deal with those separately. If peanut allergies are a problem you deal with those as a separate health issue. And so let’s just talk about secondhand smoke.
We know that smoking is the leading cause of death and disease in this country. What we didn’t know for a long time was that secondhand smoke was a serious problem too. And now we know that it is.”
John Knicely: “Martin, I’m sorry, we’re running out of time. This argument obviously is one that we could continue all morning long. You both made excellent points and this is obviously gonna play out in court. In Clayton the ban is currently in place in public parks as you heard the, er, the lawsuit is moving forward and we will continue to follow it here on NEWS 4. Thank you gentlemen.”