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?
BY MARK SCHLINKMANN • email@example.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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”