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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
BY PAUL HAMPEL • email@example.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:
“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:
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.”