The following letter I submitted appeared on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Letters to the Editor page on Sunday, June 26. It followed a brief conversation I had with St. Charles County Executive, Steve Ehlmann, after I sent him a letter recently on the subject of comprehensive smoke-free air laws in the metro area, including St. Charles. That related to his recent veto of a St. Charles smoke-free ballot initiative. While I point out the rationale behind legislation with exemptions, which I agree should not occur with a health and welfare issue, his insistence on legislation with no exemptions should motivate him to try and work with other area legislators, like St. Louis County Chairman Steve Stenger, to pass such legislation.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann picked two examples of exemptions for comment in his veto of a proposal to put a smoke-free air bill on the 2012 ballot. He wrote: “If the purpose of the smoking ban is to protect the health of employees, there is no rational reason to exclude casino floor workers. If tobacco smoke is harmful, there is no reason to exempt cigar bars, while regulating bars that allow cigarette smoking.”
That sounds reasonable, except for political reality.
For example, in 2009, former St. Louis County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser introduced a comprehensive smoking ban but couldn’t garner the necessary council support without exempting casinos and small bars. Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution and others strongly opposed the exemptions and urged County Executive Charlie Dooley to veto the measure. However, after it passed and went on the November 2009 ballot as Proposition N, we supported it after getting overwhelming positive feedback to do so from our members.
Proposition N’s overwhelming success resulted in both St. Louis and St. Louis County going largely smoke-free on Jan. 2.
Since then, St. Louis County Council Chairman Steve Stenger, who originally had insisted on the Harrah’s Casino and small bar exemptions, has gone on record as seeking legislation to remove the existing loopholes.
If only private homes were exempted when not being used for child care, that would bring our metropolitan area up to the current standard for 100 percent smoke-free air laws. Paraphrasing Mr. Ehlmann, why should we do otherwise?
Martin Pion • St. Louis County