2011/03/14 P-D: “Smoking issue resurfaces at St. Charles County Council”

In this story by reporter Mark Schlinkmann, Councilman Joe Cronin is reportedly proposing that establishments simply put up “Smoking” or “No Smoking” signs as an “informational tool” before seriously tackling the issue of secondhand smoke pollution. He is evidently unaware that this is a ploy originated by the tobacco industry to fend off meaningful protections from secondhand smoke.

That contrasts with the aim of former Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler whom he defeated last November. Hibbeler wanted to put a comprehensive countywide smoke-free air ordinance on the ballot. While that’s second best to the council taking action itself, she clearly recognized that this was an important public health issue.

This article also recounts well-worn objections from council members, such as Paul Wynn, who referred to smoke-free air advocates as “zealots” and asked “Where does it end?”, echoing the tobacco industry’s hollow slippery slope argument. He and Council Chairman Joe Brazil view smoking as an individual right, evidently regardless of whether it harms others.

It’s amazing that such attitudes prevail this many years after the release of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke in 1986, which drew these important conclusions:

1. Involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in health nonsmokers.

2. The children of parents who smoke, compared with the children of nonsmoking parents, have an increased frequency of respiratory infections, increased respiratory symptoms, and slightly smaller rates of increase in lung function as the lung matures.

3. The simple separation of smokers and nonsmokers within the same air space may reduce, but does not eliminate, the exposure of nonsmokers to environmental tobacco smoke.

It’s a case of not wanting to acknowledge the evidence and applying a different standard to this one behavior which harms others. Would the same council members take this view if I poked a pencil in their eye and argued I’m using a legal product and I have a right to use it any way I wish?

Smoking issue resurfaces at St. Charles County Council

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN • mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011 7:37 pm | Comments (108)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A County Council member wants to require bars, restaurants, stores and other businesses countywide to post signs explaining whether smoking is allowed or prohibited by the proprietor.

Councilman Joe Cronin St. Paul

         Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, says he sees that as “baby steps” before the council eventually considers enacting a countywide ban on smoking in such establishments or putting such a measure before voters.
         “It’s more of an informational tool,” Cronin said in explaining his proposal at a council work session Monday night.
         He pointed out that Lake Saint Louis had passed a sign posting ordinance and limited ban in 2007 – three years before imposing a comprehensive prohibition that also applied to bars and restaurants. That went into effect last October.
         “It got the community talking,” he said of the initial Lake Saint Louis measure, which did bar smoking in stores, offices and some hotel rooms.
         In an article he wrote for an upcoming county government newsletter, he said his measure would give businesses “time to think about the dangers secondhand smoke presents to their customers and employees.”
         Cronin has yet to work out other details in his bill but said it may include a prohibition on smoking in elevators, day-care centers and some other places in which children are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Joe Brazil
Defiance

         Cronin’s idea was panned Monday by two fellow Republicans on the council – Council Chairman Joe Brazil of Defiance and Paul Wynn of O’Fallon.

Paul Wynn
O'Fallon

         “Where does it end?” Wynn asked.
         He predicted that anti-smoking “zealots” wouldn’t be satisfied with the sign-posting proposal.
         And if a countywide ban is passed, he said, that could spur later efforts to try to prohibit French fries, candy, soda and “anything that’s bad for you.”
         Wynn and Brazil regard smoking bans as an infringement on individual rights.
         Cronin has yet to formally introduce his measure so no vote was taken on the issue Monday night.

Cheryl Hibbeler

          Last spring, then-Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, an O’Fallon Democrat defeated by Cronin in the November election, tried unsuccessfully to get the council to put a comprehensive countywide ban on the ballot.

John White
St. Charles County

         Councilman John White, R-St. Charles County, said Monday that he favors going ahead with a countywide election issue next year – either at the August primary or the November general election. White added that he might sponsor such a bill.
         Cronin, meanwhile, said “if we don’t put it on the ballot in 2012, you can bet they’ll be a petition drive like the one in O’Fallon” to force a countywide election on the issue.
         An anti-smoking petition effort succeeded in getting a comprehensive ban on the April 5 ballot in O’Fallon.
         Cronin, who owns a business in O’Fallon, predicted that the O’Fallon measure will pass easily.
         Last year when he was running for the council, Cronin said there probably should be a countywide election on the issue but that he personally opposed a government-imposed ban.
He said Monday he’s now open to considering the idea “if public opinion leans that way.”

14 responses to “2011/03/14 P-D: “Smoking issue resurfaces at St. Charles County Council”

  1. Tony Palazzolo

    Is this another example of a politician that champions smoking bans being voted out?

    You can also maintain the arguments against smoking bans are tobacco company propaganda but they are valid arguments. In Springfield, as well as banning tobacco they also banned e-cigarettes. In parts of California its illegal to smoke in your own backyard. The ball keeps getting push farther and farther.

    mogasp comment: The politician voted out was a female Democrat, replaced by a male Republican. It was almost certainly party politics and she succumbed to the Republican wave. (It wasn’t because of her sex either!)

    The problem with e-cigarettes is there’s nothing to readily distinguish them from regular cigarettes, and that appears to be deliberate on the part of the manufacturers. That, plus the uncertainty about their health claims is the issue I perceive.

    You can’t burn yard waste in your own backyard in most, if not all, of metro St. Louis either. I don’t hear anyone complaining about that.

  2. “Cronin is reportedly proposing … “Smoking” or “No Smoking” signs as an “informational tool”…this is a ploy originated by the tobacco industry ”

    Mogasp, I realise you’re a bit young, but putting up “No Smoking” signs in places where owners didn’t want smoking FAR predates any “ploys” by Big T.

    Now you’re correct there was a sign program like that in the 80s, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad thing. They pay their taxes, right? And that’s good, right? And they seem to have a much better record for producing “safe” products than some branches of the food industry: think how many die yearly from contaminated food vs. how many die from smoking a contaminated cigarette. In the long term a lot of people may die from smoking cigarettes or from eating generally unhealthy foods, but that’s a different matter.

    Signage would protect patrons and offer fair warning of expected working conditions to potential employees.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    mogasp response: I assume you’re not deliberately misunderstanding the point you quote. Of course people have been putting up “No Smoking” signs on their businesses for decades prior to any laws requiring it.

    The issue here is that the tobacco industry has deliberately promoted look-alike legislation which has the usual preamble about the ill-effects of secondhand smoke exposure plus a list of definitions, but the aim is to sidetrack meaningful legislation. It does so by simply requiring businesses to put up, at their choice, a “Smoking” sign or a “No Smoking” sign. The purpose is to maintain the status quo and not to address the issue to SHS pollution.

  3. MoGASP the slipery slope argument is hardly a hollow one. It is one of the arguments being used in the Ohio Supreme court at this time. The first state to hear it on constitutional and property rights. This really does boil down to property rights plain and simple. You keep using the pencil in the eye argument,(Which is a clear act of battery) Signage would allow the patron informed consent before entering.

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp reply: Each different public health and welfare issue must be argued on its merits. It makes absolutely no sense to link tobacco smoke pollution to other unrelated issues. You can’t conceive of SHS as being equivalent to battery but others subjected to it and suffering its ill effects have no problem doing so. Only those arguing “property rights” make the distinction it seems.

  4. Sheila Martin

    We voted out 18 members of the Kansas House who voted for the smoking ban last year. We sent a Senator to Congress that voted against it, and who ran against another Senator who voted for it. In Hutchinson Kansas, two City Councilmen, who voted against the ban, ran unchallenged in last weeks election. In point of fact, if you supported the smoking ban in taverns, you lost your election. Just the facts.

    mogasp comment: These may be accurate facts but your conclusion – that in all cases it was the candidates’ position on SHS pollution which cost them their seats – is unproven. The last election was a wave election in which even many conservative Democrats lost their seats.

  5. Mogasp, you wrote, ” the aim is to sidetrack meaningful legislation.”

    Again, as usual, we disagree due to our fundamental beliefs. I would say “the aim is to sidetrack (bad/needless/unnecessary) legislation.”

    Mogasp, we argue on two different levels here: the level of there being a real physical harm from diluted secondary smoke exposure to the average person and the level of there being such harm (and/or sometimes just discomfort) to a small group of people (and we could argue about the size of the group) who could voluntarily and usually quite easily avoid such harm or discomfort by patronizing or working in places that ban smoking.

    I believe the signage proposal deals quite well with the second level. Would you agree? In terms of the first level we disagree on two counts: 1) that the harm in ventilated circumstances has been verified, & 2) that a significant # of people would be “forced” to work in a smoky bar for 30 or 40 years with no reasonable job openings elsewhere.

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: As you note, there’s no meeting of the minds between us on this issue. You trivialize secondhand smoke, arguing it evidently doesn’t even rise to a public nuisance. All the evidence of which I’m aware, and from personal experience, disputes that.

  6. You can’t burn in your own backyard?!!!!!!
    Then how do you expect us to properly celebrate Guy Fawks day on Nov. 5th?! He was, after all, the only man who’d entered a legislative body with honest intentions.
    “A copper for the Guy, Gov’ner?”

    mogasp comment: More accurately: “A penny for the Guy, guvnor?”
    A “copper” is slang for a policeman.

  7. mogasp reply: “Each different public health and welfare issue must be argued on its merits. It makes absolutely no sense to link tobacco smoke pollution to other unrelated issues.”

    The problem is that you are the one making the pencil in the eye comparison. No business would allow such action and no patron would consent either. In a free society people are free to engage in risky behavior and businesses are free to cater to those risks. A more correct comparison would be a boxing ring. If you don’t want to get punched, don’t step into the ring. These are the principles this country was founded on. The roll of government is not to protect us from every conceivable risk. See “assumption of risk” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assumption%2Bof%2Brisk

    So yes this does open up that “slippery slope” argument that you find so hollow.

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp comment: Yes, I’m the one making the pencil in the eye comparison and it’s perfectly appropriate. Wishing to enter an establishment open to the public has nothing to do with engaging in fisticuffs.

  8. MoGasp, I don’t think you’re being fair here. You say to me “You trivialize secondhand smoke, arguing it evidently doesn’t even rise to a public nuisance.”

    I’m not talking about nuisances, public or otherwise. btw… is it even POSSIBLE to have a “public nuisance” inside a private business where the owner has said the activity is OK and it’s not bothering anyone who hasn’t chosen to enter? Can you name a single instance of such a thing that exists outside of the arena (smoking) where you would like it to?

    But I’m not talking about nuisances, but about proven health effects on normal people from the low levels of smoke that would be found in venues meeting standard reasonable levels of ventilation and air filtration. I don’t think I’m trivializing at ALL MoGasp and I think you’re being unfair in saying that I am.

    mogasp comment: When the public is invited into a business for the purpose of commerce, or it is a place of employment, then it becomes subject to safety and health laws. Ventilation may reduce, but doesn’t eliminate, the health risks, or the effects on smoke-sensitive individuals covered by the ADA.
    Opponents of smoke-free air laws are unwilling to acknowledge the above. They want to carve out an exception for smoking for which there is no justification.

  9. First of all, it is legal to burn in a back yard in our county for outdoor cooking purposes. Second, poking someone in the eye with a pencil causes IMMEDIATE harm, while smoking in the presence of a nonsmoker MIGHT cause some harm 40 years later, allowing the nonsmoker plenty of time to leave the establishment. The 1986 surgeon general report ignored the 1981 ACS study of over 1 million non smokers ( garfinkel) which found no ill effects, and if included would have nullified the 1986 report. The 1992 EPA report ignored the Brownson study which would have nullified that. The 2006 SG report ignored Enstrom/Kabat which would have nullified that. All these reports which motivate MOGASP are the result of cherry-picking.

    mogasp response: A smoke-sensitive asthmatic can suffer a serious or even fatal attack when exposed to secondhand smoke. But one doesn’t have to be an asthmatic to find it a public nuisance.
    All your efforts to rewrite the US SG reports appear to be baseless. For example, I know Dr. Ross Brownson personally and the last time I asked him about how his study was being used to rebut the evidence on secondhand smoke he replied:

    “Truth is, our study only marginally showed excess risk and if it was the only study would not be convincing. But of course, no policy decision related to chronic disease prevention is based on a single study and it is based on the body of evidence, which is convincing as summarized in major reports like the EPA, the Surgeon General, IARC. It is easy to cherry pick data from one study, which is the case here.”

  10. MoGasp, I am most definitely what you would call an “opponent of smoke-free air laws” and I fully acknowledge that workplaces should follow safety laws as defined by the government body in charge of them: OSHA. As you know, OSHA has declined to set a ruling on ETS and told ASH that if they *did* set a ruling it would be one ASH would not like: i.e. one accepting reasonable ventilation as a solution. I also believe in health laws for dangers that are hidden and/or pose immediate dangers to the general public such as food or poisoning or CO asphyxiation.

    You also specify “or a place of employment” while knowing full well that you’re including many laws that define volunteers in private clubs/events as “employees.” Do you feel that’s fair? And how does that fit with arguing they are “forced” to work there to feed their families?

    Re ventilation/risks/ADA: we’ve done this before: same argument can be made re sunshine and patio dining. Your reasoning would outlaw them.

    – MJM

  11. Oh! Quick extra question in terms of “carving exceptions”: Can you name ANY “health laws” aside from smoking that are commonly decided by popular votes?

  12. regarding MOGASP reply above:::: OSHA says ventilation DOES reduce the purported risk to an acceptable level.. LOTS of these venues do not have wheel chair access for the disabled either…so why is MOGASP not concerned about access for persons with ALL kinds of disabilities?

    mogasp comment: You quote OSHA but in a dismissive way by referring to a “purported risk.” OSHA has no standard for SHS to my knowledge but NIOSH has recommended removal of SHS from workplaces to provide the safest work environment. Obviously, what applies to one kind of disability doesn’t necessarily apply to others. The ADA requires the maximum accommodation possible for covered individuals.

  13. mogasp comment: “When the public is invited into a business for the purpose of commerce, or it is a place of employment, then it becomes subject to safety and health laws. Ventilation may reduce, but doesn’t eliminate, the health risks, or the effects on smoke-sensitive individuals covered by the ADA.
    Opponents of smoke-free air laws are unwilling to acknowledge the above. They want to carve out an exception for smoking for which there is no justification.”

    You are kind of stretching the intent of the ADA to suit your agenda. Yes disabilities do limit job opportunities. Those same people with lung problems would not be able to work as firefighters, coal miners, welders, a paraplegic would not be able to work as steal workers, cops, construction workers. The intent of the ADA was never to force others to change their lifestyles or discriminate against their targeted patrons in favor of the disabled. The smokers far outnumber those that are so weak and frail that the smoke would bother them, yet you insist that the businesses force the businesses force the majority of their business outside to satisfy a tiny minority.

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp response: No one is “kind of stretching” anything. See my response to Dave Kuneman.

  14. Forcing “one size fits all” criteria on the hospitality industry is in itself a stretch. We don’t force all restaurants to serve identical menus, even though some are allergic to some foods and ingredients. To do so, would reduce the diversity that exists within the hospitality industry, which would reduce consumer choice, and thus result in fewer individual hospitality destinations.
    also, NIOSH is not a regulatory agency, OSHA is.

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