2011-05-11 P-D: “Area leaders plan summit meeting on smoking bans”

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STOP PRESS: I’ve been advised that while public comments will not be allowed the public may attend this event. It will be at 4 pm today, May 17th, in the conference room adjoining the council chamber, or move to the council chamber itself, depending on how many members of the public attend. The media is expected to cover it.

Address: Administration Building, 41 South Central, Clayton (1st Floor), MO 63105. (Get directions from mapquest.com)
Metered parking opposite and on-street.

One must view this potentially important development with caution, since there are significant differences between politicians in the area on the subject of smoke-free air and government action to promote it. However, it’s a welcome sign of the importance of this public health issue and the recognition by some local politicians of the need for comprehensive action.

Area leaders plan summit meeting on smoking bans

BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-727-6234 and MARK SCHLINKMANN • mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 8:00 am. Comments (139 as of May 11, 2011, 8:41 pm)

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Leaders from the city of St. Louis and four counties on the Missouri side of the region have agreed to meet to discuss unifying smoking bans.

Joe Brazil

“What we’re hoping we can do is be more consistent,” said St. Charles County Council Chairman Joe Brazil, who initiated the meeting.
         Officials from his county, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis, Franklin and Jefferson counties have agreed to meet on the matter.
         The officials are concerned that the spreading patchwork of smoking bans across the region has left some businesses unable to compete with businesses that have received exemptions.

Steve Stenger

“I would like to see us as a region move quickly toward removing all exemptions from the smoking ban,” said Steve Stenger, chairman of the St. Louis County Council. “I think that as we become more sophisticated in our knowledge about the dangers of secondhand smoke we have no choice but to move toward being a county and a region that promotes health.”
         Stenger, D-Affton, said he would like to see a regionwide ban similar to those already in effect in Brentwood, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Ballwin, Lake Saint Louis and Kirkwood. They do not allow exemptions for any bars and restaurants.
         Stenger said Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer had also agreed to meet on the matter. Jefferson County Council Chairwoman Renee Reuter said she and other officials from her county planned to attend the meeting.
         Stenger said he also wanted to remove the exemptions for gambling floors at casinos.
         Brazil, a Defiance Republican, said he called for a joint meeting to make it less likely that eating and drinking spots in one area would have an unfair advantage over those in other locales.
         Brazil has been an outspoken opponent of a pending council bill setting an August 2012 election on a countywide smoking ban in St. Charles County. The proposal, introduced Monday night, would apply to all restaurants and bars but would exempt the gaming floors at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles.
         A nonsmoker himself, Brazil said he was philosophically opposed to taking away the decision from business owners. But he said he’d rather have a common approach regionally than disparate versions of a ban in effect.
         “I would prefer nothing, but my point is, if we’re going to do it we should all stick together and do the same thing,” Brazil said.
         The sponsor of the St. Charles County bill — Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul — said he supported Brazil’s approach. But he said he would still seek passage of his bill at the council’s next meeting May 31. He said that if a regional deal was worked out later, there would be plenty of time to amend the St. Charles County proposal.
         The St. Louis County ban was passed by 65 percent of the voters in November 2009. In the city, the Board of Aldermen had approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage.

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed, the city’s aldermanic president, said he supported Stenger’s call to remove all exemptions.
         However, Reed, a Democrat, said he would like to get the perspective of some of the city’s bar owners who now have exemptions.
         “Some establishments spent some money in order to comply with the exemptions, so I’d like to get their input,” Reed said. “But my personal opinion is that we need to move forward and try to remove these exemptions very soon, if not immediately.”
         In both the city and the county, establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue. The city has an added requirement: A bar must be no larger than 2,000 square feet. The city ordinance ends all exemptions in 2016; the county does not have such a sunset clause.
         As of March, 185 bars in St. Louis had applied for exemptions, with 116 granted, 41 denied and 28 pending.
         St. Louis County has granted 150 exemptions. Eight have been denied, and five are pending.

Charlie Dooley

In January, St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley blasted the exemptions, calling them “unacceptable.”
         “The county executive wants no exemptions,” Dooley’s spokesman, Mac Scott, said Tuesday. “In fact, he’d like to see a smoking ban with no exemptions statewide.”

CASINO EXEMPTIONS

         The city and St. Louis County also exempt gambling floors at casinos.
Stenger said casinos had argued that they would lose business to casinos where smoking was still allowed.
         “But if we were to level that playing field, that argument would become moot,” he said.
         However, Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, said casinos needed to be concerned with competition in Illinois, where smoking is banned in casinos and in all public places.
         “When Illinois went completely smoke-free, people came to our properties at Illinois’ loss,” he said. “If Illinois were to reconsider its smoking ban, that would put our casinos at a disadvantage.”

Pat Lindsey

Pat Lindsey, with the anti-smoking group Tobacco-Free St. Louis, said the current smoking ban was unfair to bars that did not have exemptions.
         “Our organization has been conducting surveys of bars, and we are finding that those that do not have exemptions are suffering because they’re losing business to the bars where smoking is still being allowed,” Lindsey said.

Bill Hannegan

Bill Hannegan, a longtime opponent of the smoking ban, assailed any effort to strengthen the smoking ban.
         “I would hope that if we unify the ban, we do it not in the direction of more strictness but on a more rational basis, such as letting owners of restaurants decide whether they want to allow smoking, but limiting access to those venues to people who are over 18,” Hannegan said. “I do think there’s a basis in reason to limiting smoking around children.”
         Stenger said a consensus among the various counties would be key to strengthening the ban in St. Louis County.
         If it chose, the County Council could change the ordinance on its own without submitting it to public vote again.
         Said Stenger, “I would be optimistic that a bill could be passed without exemptions (in St. Louis County) if all the counties in the region were on the same page with the issue of removing exemptions in their jurisdictions.”

David Hunn of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed to this report.

18 responses to “2011-05-11 P-D: “Area leaders plan summit meeting on smoking bans”

  1. So, according to this article, Pat Lindsey NOW admits bans harm the bar business. Why does she assume that if exemptions are eliminated that smokers will patronize nonsmoking bars instead of just staying home? There is no way her surveys can tell if the smokers are actually migrating to smoking bars or just staying home more now. I believe the later because the density of smokers in places with exemptions is not high enough to explain the business loss she says her surveys are finding.

  2. It is wonderful to see more of our politicians such as Charlie Dooley finally get the message that 2nd-hand smoke pollution is harmful to citizenry. I am pleased that we are not last to recognize the harm and take some legislative action to protect us.

  3. Tony Palazzolo

    I also find Pat’s comment to be interesting. Commentary from her and proban advocates in general is that smoking bans help or at the least don’t hurt bars and restaurants. If that was true than bars that now have smoking banned should have seen a increase, not a decrease since non-smokers that have been waiting on the sidelines because of the smoke should be spending their money in those establishments. Now she is admitting that smoking bans are hurting those establishments that she said should be helping them.
    I understand what she is doing. She is crafting her arguement for “level playing field” which she in part help to unlevel in the first place.
    What I would like her to answer which is it? Do smoking bans hurt bars or do they help them. Seems she is confused about the effect.

  4. “The officials are concerned that the spreading patchwork of smoking bans across the region has left some businesses unable to compete with businesses that have received exemptions.”

    and, from Pat Lindsey,

    “those that do not have exemptions are suffering because they’re losing business to the bars where smoking is still being allowed.”

    So suddenly they’re turning around and admitting that everything they said before about the great demand for the bans and the “no harm” and “no loss of business” etc, etc, etc, was false?

    And Steve Stenger’s comment is quite telling as well: “I would like to see us as a region move quickly toward removing all exemptions from the smoking ban.”

    This is not meant to be a summit toward the best policy: it is simply a summit meant to uniformly impose the bad policy that will cause even more harm to the lives and livelihoods of those affected.

    These people should be ashamed of themselves.

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

    mogasp comment: I assume Pat Lindsey was quoted correctly but I cannot verify that. As regards Councilman Steve Stenger, I have to disagree with you: I think a comprehensive smoke-free air law with no exceptions is a desirable goal.

  5. Since I patronize lots of exempt establishments now, I am noticing that the vast majority of workers in these exempt establishments are also smokers. So the argument that bans are needed to protect workers also makes no sense. I’d like to ask people like Martin, Pat, and Hans if they personally, are now patronizing these former smoking bars which are now not exempt, than before? Are any of you making any effort to make up for the business loss due to the existing bans? Martin,, have you been back to the DD’s, as a customer, since you last tested their air?

    mogasp response: I have considered returning to the DD Lounge to retest and while there would obviously be a customer but probably not otherwise. It’s taken so long for smoke-free air to become the norm that my wife and I have given up going out to dine much anymore. On the occasions we do, after the venue being smoke-free comes the quality of the food and value for money.

  6. The market place decides ‘the level playing field’

    mogasp reply: Not when it’s an issue of public health it doesn’t. (Or shouldn’t.)

  7. MOGASP, smoke-free air has been the norm, even pre-ban, in enough, but not all, venues that you and your wife could have been partonizing those frequently for years before now. I just can’t buy your claim that the 2 of you lost the habit of going out because some venues WERE previously smoking. So, what we have here is the leader of MOGASP publically stating that he did not give financial support to those establishments which voluntairly became smoke free in the past. How can MOGASP claim to support smoke-free air if voluntairly smoke-free venues ( pre ban) did not recieve much of your business?

  8. Thomas wrote, “The market place decides ‘the level playing field’ ”

    and mogasp replied, “Not when it’s an issue of public health it doesn’t. (Or shouldn’t.)”

    which is exactly why mogasp should be, not necessarily involved with, but at least supportive of a movement to ban outdoor dining and swimming pools. The public health issue cannot be denied, and simply because the market place seems to demand that workers risk their lives for such activities provides no excuse. The magnitude of the public health threat could be debated, with me believing it is greater than ETS exposure in bars and Mogasp probably believing it is less, but it cannot be denied.

    My own position is consistent: neither “threat” rises to a level that deserves government intervention in the market place.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: You make assertions about which I have insufficient knowledge but about which I’m dubious, but they aren’t relevant to the issue of secondhand smoke pollution.

  9. MOGASP,, they are relavant because you are genuininely concerned about public health or you are not.

    mogasp reply: I disagree. According to this reasoning, an organization devoted primarily or exclusively to AIDS or any number of other ills affecting society isn’t genuine and can’t be taken seriously. That’s plainly nonsense.

  10. OK. The only dubious point though would be sunshine causing malignant melanoma. According to MSNBC in 2006 it seems to:

    “Sun kills 60,000 people a year, WHO reports”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14046564/wid/11915773?GT1=8307 {story’s wiped,but headline stands}

    and according to IARC’s 10th report at:

    http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/roc/toc10.html#search

    you will find sunshine (UV radiation) listed as a definite Class A carcinogen for which there is “no safe level” (ref: http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/safedrink/mcl.htm)

    That was the only thing in my post that you could be dubious about. I hope you can say you are no longer dubious now, or tell me what more would be needed.

    As for the relevancy, it only holds in terms of consistency. E.G. If a father bludgeons a child with a marble bust of Cicero, and tries to defend himself by saying child abuse has only been decided in the past for bludgeoning with hammers and thus Cicero is irrelevant — I don’t think he’d last long in court.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: Agreed, and I hope the father is also charged with vandalism regarding the marble bust of Cicero.
    Regarding your headline “Sun kills 60,000 people a year, WHO reports” a quick web search found a BBC article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5219540.stm indicating that the 60,000 deaths is the worldwide estimate. The article also quotes Dr Maria Neira, Director for Public Health and the Environment at WHO:
    “We all need some sun, but too much sun can be dangerous – and even deadly.”
    And Dr. Neira also points out it’s easy to avoid over-exposure by simple protective measures, listed in the article:
    Limit time in the midday sun
    Wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses
    Use sunscreen of sun protection factor 15+
    Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours

    By contrast, none of us benefit from being exposed to secondhand smoke – other than the tobacco industry, perhaps.

  11. But employees at public pools and outdoor dining areas can’t avoid getting too much sun., because they have to be exposed more than 15 minutes each day inorder to do their jobs. Thus, those employees need to be protected by MOGASP, just like MOGASP feels it needs to protect employees from smoke (even if the employees themselves are smokers) Martin, back in 2005, you and I had a discussion about why, if nonsmokers can just avoid smoky places, we need bans and you said it was because employees cannot, and because MOGASP needs to protect employees because the employees are too scared to fight for smoke-free air by themselves. So why such a narrow focus? Does MOGASP not give a rip if employees working outdoors die from malignant mellinoma?

  12. One other question…is MOGASP invited to the area summit meeting re a regional ban, which is tomorrow at 4 PM at the St. Louis County govt building? I’m not.

    mogasp reply: No. This is just for political leaders, as far as I can tell.

  13. Mogasp, yes, it’s a worldwide figure from the WHO, but unlike secondary smoke and LC or CHD there’s very little “guesswork” involved: there just aren’t too many causes that people are generally exposed to aside from UV radiation.

    Two things re sunshine:
    1) “We all need some sun” is just a throwaway phrase. Vitamin D tabs work just fine.

    2) You’ll note she did NOT specify a safe level: there IS NO SAFE LEVEL of sunshine, and most certainly not for people who work outdoors in daylight for 40 hours a week. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, just like ventilation, can provide only partial protection, but the only COMPLETE protection is moving all dining and pool-swimming safely indoors.

    Anyone basing their support for smoking bans on the health issue of ETS must support the same tactic with regard to sunshine or their position is simply inconsistent — which is a good euphemism/hallmark for being wrong. Why should ANY workers have to trade their lives for a paycheck when it’s not necessary?

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: So there aren’t any deniers when it comes to solar-induced skin cancer? That’s good to know.
    I’ve concluded, like Dr. Mike Siegel, that the NO SAFE LEVEL mantra for SHS is meaningless, so why should I accept it in this case?

  14. Mogasp! If you reject the “no safe level” argument for smoke exposure then I certainly wouldn’t ask you to accept it for sunshine. In practical human terms the theoretical construct is meaningless.

    In terms of degrees of harm and suchlike we could certainly debate the issue, and we’d probably end up disagreeing about those relative degrees, but that’s an entirely different argument. As long as you deny the no safe level argument for both smoke and sun exposure you are being consistent in your views and that’s all I would ask in that regard!

    🙂
    MJM

  15. MOGASP should accept the no safe level sunshine case because there are not any huge cohort studies of sunshine and mellinoma which found no association. IF, in 1981, the vice president of epidemiology at the ACS reported that over 20 years those exposed to sunshine got no more mellinomas that those not exposed, had been published. Then mogasp should not accept the “sunshine safe level” argument either. IF, over the last 20 years, the FDA reported sunshine exposure had declined over 70% among Americans, but mellinoma cases were still at 53,000 each year, then we would conclude, like we SHOULD for secondhand smoke, that sunshine exposure is not a health threat.

  16. Tony Palazzolo

    “I’ve concluded, like Dr. Mike Siegel, that the NO SAFE LEVEL mantra for SHS is meaningless, so why should I accept it in this case?”

    Are you saying that “no safe level” is wrong?

    mogasp reply: Dr. Siegel explains it in his blog http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/12/surgeon-generals-office-again.html where he writes:
    “One can say that there is no safe level of exposure to any carcinogen. There is no safe level of exposure to car exhaust. There is no safe level of exposure to the sun’s rays. There is no safe level of exposure to X-rays. There is no safe level of exposure to the benzene that is found in some sodas. There is no safe level of exposure to radon in homes. There is no safe level of exposure to arsenic that is found in many people’s drinking water.”

  17. Tony, actually I think Mogasp and Dr. Siegel are saying, not that it’s necessarily wrong, but that it’s “meaningless.” In other words, yes, taking a quick peek out your front door after sunrise exposes you to a “harmful” level of sunshine. Living in the same city with a smoker exposes you to a “harmful” level of smoke. Having a husband or wife exposes you to a “harmful” risk of being battered or stabbed to death in your kitchen some evening. Having a tree on your property exposes you to a “harmful” risk of someday being killed by a falling branch or of dying from psitticosis from a colorful little bird droplet that falls upon your head.

    But the “harmfulness” is indeed MEANINGLESS in terms of the larger sphere of life.

    Where we differ with Martin is where to draw the line regarding ETS exposure, and I appreciate his integrity in being willing to accept that as the discussion zone rather than play the much easier “no safe level” card that most of his colleagues love so much.

    – MJM

  18. Tony Palazzolo

    His implication is that there is safe levels of things that are not healthy for you. I’m assuming that you then agree that while not healthy for you there is a level of SHS that is not harmful.

    mogasp reply: I’m going to devote a separate blog to this thread.

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