This story from St. Charles County is welcome news, given how unwilling legislators there have been to acknowledge that secondhand smoke is a major public health and welfare issue. It suggests that areas surrounding St. Louis City and County will soon follow their historic lead and extend secondhand smoke protections to even more employees and members of the public.
A major sticking point remains casinos, which continue to get exempted on their gaming floors from smoke-free air laws, as proposed once more in this case. Given that secondhand smoke is a major health and welfare issue, everyone deserves protection, not just some.
BY MARK SCHLINKMANN email@example.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2011 12:25 am | Comments (115 as of April 9, 2011, 11:58 am)
O’Fallon, Mo., voters approve smoking ban
Civic booster group, BJC finance O’Fallon, Mo., anti-smoking campaign
Smoking issue resurfaces at St. Charles County Council
ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A St. Charles County Council member says he’ll soon introduce a bill calling for a countywide vote next year on a smoking ban similar to one passed Tuesday in O’Fallon, the county’s biggest city.
Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, said the size of the victory for the O’Fallon measure was a factor in his decision. “Seventy-two percent (support) in O’Fallon, that’s a bunch,” he said Wednesday. “This is a contentious issue and it ought to be decided by voters.”
He added that most of the more than 20 people who contacted him regarding his recent proposal to require businesses to post signs explaining their policy on smoking urged him to instead put on the ballot a ban covering bars, restaurants and other enclosed public places.
“Almost every comment I got was why mess with this,” Cronin said of the sign measure.
Cronin said his new bill would call for a countywide vote at the regular August primary next year.
He said the measure would exempt gaming floors at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles. He said he doesn’t believe the council would allow the measure to move forward without the exemption. St. Louis County allows smoking at the Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights, Ameristar’s closest competitor. Cronin previously had opposed exempting Ameristar.
Voters in two other Missouri cities — Springfield and Webb City near Joplin — also favored smoking bans Tuesday. The Webb City vote was a nonbinding advisory referendum. Meanwhile, a ban was defeated in Cape Girardeau.
“Philosophically, I just have a problem with government telling people how to run their business,” Ehlmann said. However, he said, health and safety issues also need to be considered.
The County Council last year discussed, but never took action on, scheduling a vote on a countywide ban.
An anti-smoking coalition then launched an initiative petition drive to qualify the O’Fallon proposal for Tuesday’s ballot. Lake Saint Louis, a much smaller city, last October became the first municipality in the county to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
Last year’s county effort was pushed by then-Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler, an O’Fallon Democrat defeated by Cronin in the November election.
During the campaign, Cronin said the issue probably should be decided by voters but that he opposed a ban himself. He said he now supports a ban because “I learned more about the health risks.”
On Wednesday, St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano and Michael Klinghammer, the St. Charles City Council president, said they expected their governing boards to discuss the issue in light of the O’Fallon vote.
O’Fallon officials say their city’s ban is effective 60 days after the results are certified by county election officials. If that happens when expected, the ban will start June 13.