Monthly Archives: August 2011

2011-08-15 P-D Editorial: “Clearing the smoky air between the river banks”

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The following St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial appeared on August 15, 2011. It was strongly supportive of efforts by St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin’s efforts to promote smoke-free air. It makes reference to a study by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, published before the Illinois session wound up, which was influential in beating back efforts in that state to weaken the existing strong statewide smoke-free air law requiring casinos to be entirely smoke-free: there is no exception for the gaming floor, as has been done in Missouri and other states neighboring Illinois.

The editorial stated:

But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue.

Kathy Drea, Vice President of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois, confirmed this information was correct, and referred me to their web page at http://www.Smokefreeillinois.org/ where there’s a link to the study itself, titled ILLINOIS CASINO GAMBLERS PREFER SMOKE FREE CASINOS.     The study was published May 11, 2011, on the Center for Policy Analysis University of Massachusetts Dartmouth website.

Of the 7 comments submitted by readers to the Post-Dispatch on its editorial below, 7 are from two traditional opponents of smoke-free air, Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, and are reproduced below for reference.

Editorial: Clearing the smoky air between the river banks
By the Editorial Board | Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 12:00 am | Comments (7 as of August 16, 2011, 11:47 am)

Heather O'Brien (from left), Steve Lloyd and Andrea Sharpe light up for the last time Wednesday night at The Cooler Bar and Grill in O'Fallon. The city's smoking ban went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
ROY SYKES / JOURNAL

Tucked between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Charles County is one of the most prosperous and fastest-growing counties in the metropolitan region. And although commercial and residential sprawl poses considerable challenges to effective governance, civic institutions seem to recognize the importance of tackling tough issues directly.
         But in dealing with the public health issue of tobacco smoke, St. Charles County lags behind the state of Illinois, which adjoins it along the Mississippi; neighboring St. Louis County; the city of St. Louis; and such forward-thinking communities as Clayton, Kirkwood, Creve Coeur and, within St. Charles County itself, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon.
         County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, has been working to change that. This spring, he championed a bill to allow county residents to vote on a reasonable tobacco control ordinance. It passed the council, 4-2, but County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed it.
         In his veto letter, Mr. Ehlmann objected to the bill’s exemptions for “the gaming floor of a casino, cigar bars and 20 percent of the hotel rooms.” The exemptions were inconsistent with the goal of protecting public health, Mr. Ehlmann said, and gave exempted facilities an unfair competitive advantage.

Mr. Cronin has not given up. He has invited representatives of Mr. Ehlmann’s office, the American Cancer Society, St. Charles’ Ameristar Casino, Smoke-Free St. Charles County and other council members to meet with him this week about altering the exemption provisions. He hopes to introduce a revised bill at the council meeting next month.
         “It’s a tough one,” Mr. Cronin told us. “I’m trying to walk a difficult line.” Public health is the bill’s principal objective, he said, but he also is sensitive to possible economic effects.
         Mr. Cronin said that Ameristar predicts it would lose 20 percent of its business and have to cut 320 jobs if a smoking ban applied to the casino floor. Supposedly, gamblers who smoke would move across the river to Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis County, where they can smoke on the gaming floor.
         Earlier this year, casino complaints about lost revenue got the attention of some Illinois legislators, and they introduced a bill to add casino exemptions to the state’s tough smoke-free law. Illinois casinos said they lost business to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri when the law took effect in January 2008.
 
But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue. Researchers at the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that Illinois gamblers, including smokers, had cut back casino visits because of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The reasons they cited included the increased cost of living, the loss of jobs and income, falling behind on their bills and the cost of gasoline.
         Predictions of economic harm invariably appear wherever smoking control laws are proposed. Just as invariably, they fail to come true.
         As Mr. Cronin proceeds with his good-faith efforts to forge a consensus, he should keep public health uppermost. That should satisfy Mr. Ehlmann’s concerns and give voters the opportunity to add smoke-free indoor air to the benefits of living and working in St. Charles County

Here are the posted comments from Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, starting with the former and with a few of my observations added:

          
Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 2:34 am

Joe Cronin is being such a phony drama queen about the smoking ban issue. Cronin ran against Cheryl Hibbeler as a smoking ban opponent. In a September 15, 2010 Post article he opined against a possible St. Charles County smoking ban: “It’s just another infringement on a lot of folks’ rights,”
. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/stcharles/article_aac7bde8-c0fe-11df-9f68-00127992bc8b.html#ixzz1VArIra24 Now Cronin is publicly agonizing over how to push for a smoking ban without costing jobs and one that Ehlmann won’t veto. But Cronin knows full well that a smoking ban with an “over 21” exemption would pass the Council, would be treat all St. Charles County establishments equally, has a rational basis, and would cost very few jobs, if any. Such an exemption is in force in the smoking bans of Tennessee, Nevada and Georgia. Of course, the American Cancer Society wouldn’t like this exemption and for some reason Cronin is carrying water for them. Someone ought to call Cronin on this.


mogasp comment: Bill Hannegan keeps pushing this “over 21” exemption idea despite this being a health and safety issue. There’s no logical reason for it. A nighttime exemption for outdoor burning of yard waste in St. Louis and other local cities would make just as much sense.

          
Tony Palazzolo said on: August 16, 2011, 7:32 am

To use the word “shredded” the evidence casinos in Illinois were affected goes is not a reasonable even for an editorial. The study that they point to used slight of hand and a big headline to get mislead the public. They “proved” that only attendance was not as affected by the ban. Yet they don’t talk about revenue which the basis of the claims. The study done by the Fed said that revenue not attendance was affected. The bottom line is that revenue and not attendance is what creates and sustains jobs, profits and taxes revenue. Either the editorial board didn’t read the report or they are trying to mislead the public.


          

Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 11:47 am

The Dartmouth research was just a survey paid for by the Illinois Lung Association, not a real economic study of Illinois casino revenues such as the one conducted by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank economists which blamed the Illinois smoking ban for a 20 percent decline in casino revenues.


mogasp comment: The Dartmouth study, which looks at attendance, is valid as far as I can tell. It’s subheading provides helpful background:
Decline in state’s gross gaming revenues attributable to other factors such as recession and declining competitiveness in region’s gaming market according to poll conducted by university gaming experts

2011-08-03 P-D: “Effort to end smoking ban exemptions continues”

Reminder: For a comment to be considered it must be accompanied by your full name: first name only or a pseudonym is not normally accepted. Please limit your comment to 1,000 characters (including spaces), and also avoid epithets and personal attacks.

NOTE ABOUT THIS BLOG: A hinge on the lid of my Mac PowerBook G4 broke recently – it was originally purchased Dec. 23, 2004 – and I ended up having to buy a new MacBook Pro to replace it. I was then stymied by the lack of a cable to transfer files between the old and new computer. It arrived late yesterday so I’m now operational again. O:-)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Margaret Gillerman, posted the following story about last night’s continued focus on the exemptions in St. Louis County’s smoke-free air ordinance during the public forum before council members. This time, it was the turn of Charley Gatton, who attended but did not speak at last week’s meeting. His presentation during the public portion is reproduced below, followed by the news story and also critical comments from Bill Hannegan posted on the Post-Dispatch.

Here is Charley Gatton’s council testimony:

Charles Gatton

“Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

My name is Charley Gatton, and I live in Ballwin.

I would like to talk with you about the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. Nearly two years ago, I led the citizen effort to pass this ordinance. Despite a small budget and limited time, we were thrilled when it passed by a two-to-one margin. It passed in every township in St. Louis County. As you know, it went into effect at the beginning of this year, seven months ago.

First the good news – in spite of all of the doom and gloom predictions, the sky didn’t fall. Businesses didn’t close by the droves. Many businesses have found that their customer count and revenues have increased. I hear almost weekly from county residents that are thrilled with the new environment, and employees I talk with are also thrilled. A recent survey done for the American Cancer Society showed that voters really like this ordinance and want it strengthened.

But not everything is great. While leading the campaign, I was repeatedly told that no more than 70 or so “drinking establishment” exemptions would be granted. This was based on the number of businesses that had liquor licenses that did not have Sunday permits. I understand that a Sunday sales permit requires a business to demonstrate that more than 50% of their business revenue comes from food. The Proposition N ordinance requires that to be considered for an exemption permitting smoking, a location must have less than 25% of their revenue from food.

Imagine my surprise when a great many businesses with Sunday sales permits applied for and got exemptions! I didn’t major in math but it would seem that they should be mutually exclusive. But as of last week, more than 150 establishments had received permits. I hear many complaints from people telling me this isn’t what they thought they were voting for. Business people complain about the process and about the unfairness of it.

I have heard many reasons why this happened. But clearly, the County has a problem. Too many employees and patrons remain exposed to dangerous levels of second-hand smoke.

I didn’t come here tonight to present you with a problem with no solution. The solution is simple. The Cancer Society survey points the way – a vast majority of the voters surveyed favor amending the ordinance to do away with the “drinking establishment” and casino exemptions. I urge you to take this action now.”

Bill Hannegan posted the following comment:

“Bill Hannegan said on: August 3, 2011, 1:08 am
Both Charlie Gatton and Barbara Fraser are now on the Board of Directors of Tobacco Free St. Louis. Should leaders of a charity 501c3 be lobbying the County Council like this? Post reporter Phil Sutin recently reported that O’Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper asked the IRS to investigate the heavy lobbying of Tobacco Free St. Louis when under the leadership of Pat Lindsey. Whatever became of that investigation? And is former County Councilman Barb Fraser in any way being paid for her current lobbying effort to remove County smoking ban exemptions?”

Following is reporter Margaret Gillerman’s Post-Dispatch report:

CLAYTON > Effort to end smoking ban exemptions continues • The campaign intensified Tuesday night to persuade the St. Louis County Council to even out the rules of the countywide smoking ban at bars and restaurants.
         Four speakers urged the council to remove an exemption that allows smoking at bars that get less than 25 percent of their revenue from food.
         Smoking is banned in bars and restaurants with larger percentages of their revenue from food.
         The speakers said the seven-month-old smoking ban did not provide a level playing field for businesses.
         Ken Breier is an owner of Schottzie’s Bar and Grill in South County, which does not have an exemption.
         “The health issue is the same for everyone, where there is smoking, no matter how much food is sold,” he said.
         Charley Gatton led the citizen campaign group to pass the county smoking ban. He called on the council Tuesday to “do away with the drinking establishment and casino exemptions. …          Too many employees and patrons remain exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke.”
         This was the second week of the campaign at the County Council meeting. Again the council took no action. Several speakers had ties to Tobacco Free St. Louis, but its new head, former County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, said people were speaking as individuals. Fraser addressed the County Council last week.

2011-07-27 P-D: “St. Louis County Council is urged to end smoking ban exemptions”

During the public portion of St. Louis County Council’s regularly scheduled evening meeting at the County Government Center in Clayton on Tuesday, July 27, 2011, a number of people spoke in favor of comprehensive smoke-free air legislation. Some prominent supporters of smoke-free air were present but did not speak.

Marty Ginsberg and Pat Lindsey chatting outside the council chamber after the public portion ended

They included Pat Lindsey, Executive Director of Tobacco Free St. Louis, shown here outside the council chamber after the public portion ended. Charles Gatton is shown below sitting with Barbara Fraser in the council chamber before the start of the meeting.


Barbara Fraser, prior to presenting her testimony, with Charles Gatton, former Ballwin alderman and co-chair of the successful 2009 County Citizens for Cleaner Air Prop N campaign

Barbara Fraser, former St. Louis County Council member who stepped down from the council to run for a Missouri Senate seat which she lost by a very narrow margin in 2010, was first to address the council.

She made impassioned and forceful arguments in favor of removing the exemption for small bars which had been included in her original legislation. (Another major concession to get the votes she needed for passage of her ordinance was an exemption for casino gaming floors.) Her testimony is reproduced below.

I followed Ms. Fraser, presenting information relating to the recently-published peer-reviewed paper on casino revenues and smoking of which I was last of the six coauthors. A full version of my testimony, which was shortened when read to the county council, follows at the end of this blog after St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Paul Hampel’s, story below.

Testimony was also provided by two bar owners, one of whom, Marty Ginsburg, has been a highly vocal opponent of smoke-free air legislation for many years in the past, but who is now supporting removal of the loopholes which he views as hurting his business.

Marty Ginsburg of the Sports Page Bar and Grill speaks before the St. Louis County Council. Ginsburg wanted council members to remove exemptions for small bars.
Photo credit Jason Rosenbaum

Mr. Ginsburg is quoted at length in an on-line story in the ChesterfieldPatch by freelance reporter Jason Rosenbaum:

County Council Hears Pitch to Expand Smoking Ban

As an aside: It’s a surprise to see Marty Ginsberg now allied with the smoke-free air crowd when for so long he’s been a very outspoken opponent. Please see, for example, the following earlier blog featuring Marty Ginsburg:
KMOX 11/4/09 : “St. Louis County votes to snuff out smoking
And below is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo from August 2005 of Marty Ginsburg celebrating the defeat of the effort by St. Louis County Council to pass a comprehensive smoke-free air bill on the night Harrah’s Casino bussed in hundreds of employees to pack the council chamber in opposition.

Marty Ginsburg (left) and Scott Coleman celebrate the defeat of the proposed county smoking ban in 2005. (Photo: Laurie Skrivan/P-D)

Here is the text of Barbara Fraser’s presentation to the county council.

“Mr. Dooley, Members of the council:

With the background of a St. Louis County Council member, a state representative and currently chair of the Tobacco Free St. Louis (TFSL) Coalition board, I address you tonight well qualified to speak on this issue – but I speak to you as a citizen in this county who knows the benefits of clean smoke free air.

Though the Clean Indoor Air Act has been successfully implemented throughout the county – and thousands of places of work are now smoke free – it is now time to eliminate the exemptions for those so-called “Small bars.” As you know, the bill – the clean air act – that passed was a compromise bill after the defeat of more comprehensive legislation. I implore you to remove the exemptions for small bars. This would be a simple bill; simply removing the section 605.060 Part i.

Why??

Three reasons: Because second hand smoke causes cancer, heart disease, and serious lung ailments.

1. Second hand smoke is a serious health risk. I ask you as decision makers to make a difference in the health of your constituents. Food service workers have a 50% greater chance of dying from lung cancer than the general population. The toxins in second hand smoke cause respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing asthma, throat and even eye and vision problems. Anecdotally, I am amazed at the numbers of musicians (in addition to 100’s of service personnel) who consistently tell me how much safer/healthier the smoke free environment is for their bands.

2. Evidence shows that an overwhelming 72% of the county voters support a smoke free law that includes the now exempt bars.

– A recent survey by the Mellman group showed strong support for cleaner air in ALL work places!! (YOUR constituents support this!)

3. The St Louis County Health Department has received $7.6 million – the CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) grant – with the express purpose to help prevent disease associated with smoking. ITEM 2 of the CPPW grant expressly states: “Amend current ordinance to include ALL WORKPLACES restaurants and bars in St Louis County.”

– St Louis County has contracted with Washington U and St Louis U and others to implement much of this grant – (TFSL Coalition does not get any of that funding) – BUT this item is solely the responsibility of the government policy makers – OUR Health Dept. has received this money and now it is time to act on this promise. YOU, the policy makers, Mr. Dooley and the Health Dept. need to remove these exemptions.

– Knowing how the council works, I reiterate my request: Mr. Dooley and Dr Gunn, your sincere endorsement of this measure, along with the council’s support, will successfully eradicate the exemption.

– While serving as County Council member I sponsored and successfully passed the countywide referendum on the indoor smoking ban: the Clean Indoor Air Act in the County Council. I also helped organize the grass roots group, “County Citizens for Cleaner Air,” which successfully passed the referendum countywide by 65%.”

Following is the article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Paul Hampel, who focused on Barbara Fraser’s testimony and that of the bar owners.

St. Louis County Council is urged to end smoking ban exemptions

BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-727-6234 | Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:00 am | Comments

A former member of the St. Louis County Council and several restaurant owners appealed to the council Tuesday night to revoke exemptions from the smoking ban that have been granted to 153 establishments.
         Former council member Barbara Fraser, of University City, cited a recent American Cancer Society study that showed 72 percent of county residents would favor a law that prohibits smoking in all indoor public places.
         Fraser is now chairwoman of the anti-smoking group Tobacco Free St. Louis.
         “I implore you to remove the exemptions,” she said. “Why? Because secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease and serious lung ailments.”
         The county ban was passed by 65 percent of the voters in November 2009.
         County establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue.
         The ban also exempts gambling floors at casinos.
         Several restaurant owners whose businesses are abiding by the ban said they have lost revenue to those with exemptions.
         “I’m being discriminated against because I’m following the law,” Marty Ginsburg, owner of the Sports Page restaurant in Chesterfield, told the council. “If we can follow the law, the other 153 can as well.”
         The council took no action on the request. However, Council Chairman Steve Stenger has repeatedly said he favors removing all exemptions.

Below is the unabridged version of the testimony presented by Martin Pion, president of Missouri GASP:

Martin Pion testifying on behalf of Missouri GASP

“Hon. Chairman Steve Stenger and Council Members, and County Executive Charlie Dooley:

Mr. Chairman, I should first like to commend you on your efforts to extend smoke-free air to all public places and private workplaces in St. Louis County, St. Louis City and St. Charles County.

This remains a worthy but elusive goal.

For example, a recent effort in St. Charles County to put the issue of smoke-free air on the ballot was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who wrote in his veto message:

However, I believe that, when a regulation is passed to improve public health, exceptions to that regulation should be rationally related to the same public health goal. It would be totally irrational to require restaurant inspections, but exempt Italian restaurants. If the purpose of the smoking ban is to protect the health of employees, there is no rational reason to exclude casino floor workers.

A major reason casinos have been routinely exempted from regulation was their claim that failing to do so would result in a significant reduction in profit due to smokers fleeing to nearby smoking-permitted casinos, which in turn means a loss in tax revenue.

That has, in fact, become a generally accepted mantra.

When it became clear in 2007 that casinos in Illinois were likely to go smoke-free as a result of legislative efforts in that state I proposed a study by researchers I knew in the Center for Tobacco Policy Research (CTPR) in St. Louis. Dr. Douglas A. Luke, PhD, who leads that group, expressed interest in doing a major study to compare neighboring smoke-free casinos in Illinois with smoking-permitted casinos in Missouri, Iowa and Indiana, but a funding source could not be found.

A multi-year study was eventually undertaken on a part-time basis by Dr. Jenine Harris, PhD, a biostatistician in the CTPR, after limited funding to cover some of her time was provided by Missouri GASP. She was assisted gratis by a number of her PhD colleagues who had expertise in different areas, such as Tim McBride, an economist.

The result surprised me and was contrary to accepted wisdom.

The main conclusion is evident from the paper’s title in the peer-reviewed journal, Tobacco Control, which published it on-line on June 15th, 2011:

Exempting casinos from the Smoke-free Illinois Act will not bring patrons back: they never left

As Dr. Doug Luke, a primary author of the paper, has pointed out:

Opponents of the tobacco policy want to hang any negative business or economic shifts on the passage of the smokefree policy, but there are other more likely explanations for these shifts.”