Monthly Archives: November 2011

2011-11-22 P-D: “St. Charles County Council won’t put smoking ban on ballot”

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Not altogether surprising, but with this result St. Charles County’s elected representatives have again failed to fulfill their obligation to protect the public health and welfare of the people they claim to represent. It’s wealth trumping health again, a concern over potential loss of smoking customers being the issue for Councilwoman Nancy Matheny who had formerly been a supporter of smoke-free air.

Randomly reading comments from readers on the Post-Dispatch web site I came across a gem from “harleyrider1978” suggesting that secondhand smoke is no worse than “a hearty thanksgiving dinner.”

I didn’t attend this time but it sounds like Bill Hannegan did. His was the second St. Louis Post-Dispatch comment on this story:

Bill Hannegan said on: November 29, 2011, 2:53 am
Nancy Matheny really made her point when she read from a list of VFW and American Legion Halls exempt in St. Louis County. How could she then put a smoking ban on her own veterans groups?

Following is reporter Mark Schlinkmann’s story of last night’s event”

St. Charles County Council won’t put smoking ban on ballot

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN – mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (71 as of November 29, 2011, 7:50 pm)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • The latest push to let voters decide on a countywide smoking ban was extinguished Monday night by the St. Charles County Council.         

Councilman Joe Cronin, St. Paul

Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, said the rejection on a 3-3 vote of the election bill he sponsored probably will spur an anti-smoking coalition to launch a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot next November.
         “I want to give them notice so they can get that organization rolling,” Cronin said, explaining why he pushed for a council vote at this time.
         However, coalition members said no decision has been made yet on a petition effort.

Stacy Reliford, ACS

         “Everything’s on the table at this point,” said Stacy Reliford, an American Cancer Society official active in the group. The county charter requires signatures from at least 9,260 registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
         The measure rejected Monday would have banned smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in municipalities and unincorporated areas. The measure had a few exemptions but none for bars or tobacco stores.
         Cronin withdrew his separate bill calling for a second ballot issue on exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles from a ban.
         In May, the council had approved an earlier Cronin measure that put the ban and the casino exemption in a single ballot issue. But that measure was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who objected to exemptions in a health law.
         Ehlmann had said he would likely go along with Cronin’s new, two-pronged approach because they involved county charter amendments, not a health ordinance.

Councilwoman Nancy Matheny

         But then Councilwoman Nancy Matheny – who voted for the May bill – said earlier this month that she wouldn’t support a ban this time around.
         She said she worried that affected businesses, such as bars, would be at a competitive disadvantage with places in St. Louis County exempted from an existing ban there.
         “This bill does pick winners and losers,” Matheny, R-Weldon Spring, said Monday. She said the council still has time to devise a better bill to put before voters next year, but Cronin says that’s unlikely.
         Cronin said he pushed for his measure because secondhand smoke “is a public health threat.”
         Joining Cronin in favor were Councilmen Terry Hollander, R-St. Charles, and John White, R-St. Charles County. Voting “no” with Matheny were Joe Brazil, R-Defiance, and Jerry Daugherty, D-Portage des Sioux. Another opponent, Paul Wynn, R-O’Fallon, was absent.
         The council heard from a string of speakers. Carol Gold, owner of South 94 Bistro, and other opponents said the measure infringed on business rights.
         Supporters included Kay Young, an anti-smoking activist from St. Charles, who said the council could make the county a health leader.

Kay Young and Councilman Joe Cronin talking after the Nov. 11, 2011, council meeting

2011-11-20: Despite major gains, the region still lags in smoke-free air protections

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Things are no longer as bad as implied by this cartoon, produced for Missouri GASP back in 1993 by local artist, Paul Dillon.
          Almost all dining places in St. Louis City and County are now required to be smoke-free by ordinance, as of January 2, 2011. However, in adjoining counties there is still strong resistance by some in local government to provide such protections, as we’ve just seen in St. Charles County.
          And in St. Louis City and County there are still too many exceptions, as I was reminded by a recent e-mail from “DW,” a smoke-sensitive asthmatic living in California. She sent me a copy of a complaint she’d written following a stage production she’d attended in which actors had lit up cigarettes on stage, in violation of state law. In a subsequent e-mail she wrote:

“…. I checked with the authorities, and it is indeed illegal in California. Unfortunately, the theater employee lied to the officer and told him that “fake cigarettes” were being used. At that point, it was my word against theirs. …. My throat and lungs told me the truth, as did the House Manager who admitted to me (before the officer arrived) that they were lighting up real cigarettes onstage.”

          DW reminded me of an unpleasant experience when attending a local amateur dramatic performance in which part of the action took place in a night club. At the start of every such scene most of those on-stage would light up to provide the authentic “smoke-laden air” of a night club of the period. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for that smoke to migrate to the back of the nominally smoke-free auditorium where I was sitting.
          Her e-mails also prompted me to review the current exemptions in the ordinances for St. Louis City and County. (While they are similar, the City’s doesn’t permit smoking in stage productions while the County’s does. The City also requires Lambert Airport to be smoke-free.) That leaves 8 exemptions, in addition to private residences, in the County’s ordinance:

[Please see the bottom of this blog for St. Louis City’s list of exceptions.]

St. Louis County Chapter 605 INDOOR CLEAN AIR CODE

605.060 Exceptions.

a. Private residences, not serving as enclosed places of employment or enclosed public places;
b. Private clubs;
c. Performers on stage in a theatrical production, where smoking is required as part of the production;
d. Private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the residents of which are all smokers and have all requested the management of the facility to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted;
e. Retail establishments in which food is not prepared on the premises and where more than 60% of the volume of trade or business carried on is the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products;
f. Permanently designated smoking rooms, not to exceed twenty percent of the guest rooms;
g. Cigar bars, provided such entity is in operation on or before the effective date of this chapter and provided that smoke does not infiltrate into areas where smoking is otherwise prohibited;
h. Casino gaming areas;
i. Drinking establishments which are in operation on or before the effective date of this chapter; provided, however, that no smoke infiltrates into areas where smoking is otherwise prohibited, and further provided that each such drinking establishment has posted in a place visible to the public from its exterior a certificate of exemption issued by the Department of Revenue pursuant to Section 605.076;
j. Areas designated and posted as smoking areas by the Airport Authority of Lambert St. Louis International Airport pursuant to Section 721.045, Title VII SLCRO 1974 as amended.
(O. No. 24105, 8-25-09)

This compares to the following local ordinance which has fewer exemptions:

City of Brentwood NO-SMOKING REGULATIONS

Sec. 13-254. Where smoking is not regulated.

(a) Private residences, except when used as licensed child care facilities, adult daycare facilities, health care facilities or enclosed places of employment.
(b) Private vehicles.
(c) Twenty-five percent (25%) of hotel and motel rooms may be permanently designated as smoking rooms.
(d) Retail tobacco stores that derive more than eighty percent (80%) of their total gross revenue from the sale of loose tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, pipes or other tobacco-related products, and which are not merely a department or subsection of a larger commercial establishment.

(Ord. No. 4243 §§1–2, 8-16-10)

Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, based in Berkeley, CA, publishes a Model Smoke-free Air Ordinance. Over the years, the list of exemptions has shrunk as public support for smoke-free air has increased. Visiting ANR’s website today, this is what I found:

Sec. 1010. Where Smoking Not Regulated
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Article to the contrary, smoking shall not be prohibited in private residences, unless used as a childcare, adult day care, or health care facility.

Coming back to what started this thread, this lady’s unpleasant experience reminds us of two things:

1) That even when you have strong laws there will always be violators.

But more important is that:

2) While we still have some way to go in that direction. without such laws things would be much worse.

St. Louis City Ordinance 68481

SECTION SEVEN. Where Smoking Not Regulated

1. Private residences, except when used as a licensed childcare, licensed adult day care, or licensed health care facility.
2. Not more than twenty percent (20%) of hotel and motel rooms rented to guests and designated as smoking rooms. All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous and smoke from these rooms must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. The status of rooms as smoking or nonsmoking may not be changed, except to add additional nonsmoking rooms.
3. Private clubs that have no employees, except when being used for a function to which the general public is invited; provided that smoke from such clubs does not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. This exemption shall not apply to any organization that is established for the purpose of avoiding compliance with this Ordinance.
4. Outdoor areas of places of employment.
5. Tobacco retail stores as defined by this Ordinance.
6. Casino gaming areas as defined by this Ordinance.
7. Bars in existence on the effective date of this ordinance in which only persons aged twenty one (21) years old or older are permitted to enter the premises, the square footage of the entire floor area of the level of the building on which the bar establishment is located is two thousand (2000) square feet or less. The square footage shall not include kitchen areas, storage areas and bathrooms. The bar shall prominently displays outside of the premises at each entrance and above the bar the following sign in lettering that is black bold Arial font at (ninety-eight) 98 point size: “WARNING : SMOKING ALLOWED HERE”. This exemption for bars shall expire five (5) years after the effective date of this ordinance.

2011-11-14: Additions to St. Charles County Council meeting blog

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The following photos were taken during this meeting but only became available today. At the end of this blog, following the photos, is the text of my prepared testimony read during the public portion of the council meeting.

Jim Franke, Ameristar Casino GM, testifying against smoke-free air ballot proposals
Click repeatedly to enlarge photos


Council members in the photo above, from left to right:

Nancy Matheny, District 3
Joe Brazil, Chairperson, District 2
Terry Hollander, District 5
Jerry Daugherty, District 6

Joe Cronin, District 1, sponsor of smoke-free air measures, is off-camera to the left
Paul Wynn, District 4, was absent

Martin Pion, president of MoGASP, testifying in favor of measures. County Executive Steve Ehlmann, is just visible in left background

Sharon Lee, Don & Kay Young talking to Councilman Joe Cronin after the meeting

Martin Pion, MoGASP president, & Steve Ehlmann, St. Charles County Executive, posing after the meeting. He remarked that he didn't normally attend without a tie.

Martin Pion’s testimony, presented as president of Missouri GASP Inc., during the public portion of St. Charles County Council meeting on Monday, November 14, 2011:

Hon. Chairman Joe Brazil and Council Members, and County Executive Steve Ehlmann:
         I commend you on your efforts to protect the public health and welfare.
         Smoke-free air laws are comparable to those relating to outdoor burning of yard waste or food preparation and handling, for example.
         What remains surprising is that there is still any debate about this particular issue.
         For smoke-sensitive asthmatics, secondhand smoke exposure can be a life or death issue. For the rest of us, it can be either a minor or major irritant, in the latter case adversely affecting quality of life and even one’s work ability.
         It is now well-established that secondhand smoke is a leading cause of disease and death in the U.S., comparable to active smoking.
         I believe the main question is whether this council should enact a comprehensive ordinance or punt it to the voters. I favor the former, but putting it on the November ballot is an option I could support.
         That is how it was approved in St. Louis County in 2009 after Missouri GASP joined County Citizens for Cleaner Air. This grassroots group was led by former Ballwin alderman, Charles Gatton, who sponsored the first comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance in the region in 2005.
         Opposition to such legislation used to come from the tobacco industry. However, since the tobacco settlement which disbanded their main lobbying arm, the Tobacco Institute, that role has been taken over by pro-smoking activists like Bill Hannegan.
         They argue that cigarettes are a legal product and therefore beyond regulation, and that private businesses can set their own rules when it comes to smoking. Neither argument holds water.
         No legal product can be used in such a way as to harm others. And no private business is exempt from health and safety regulation.
         I’m disappointed that the Ameristar Casino gaming floor may be exempted. It is inconsistent with a primary objective of this proposal: to protect the health and wellbeing of employees. It is prompted by a fear that this will cause the casino to lose business, which may well be misplaced.
         Several years ago, after Illinois enacted a comprehensive smoke-free air law which included casinos, I suggested to the St. Louis Center for Tobacco Policy Research that they examine neighboring casinos in IL and MO to see the effect on revenues. After several years of analysis, primarily by Washington University St. Louis researcher Dr. Jenine Harris, a paper by six authors appeared in June in the peer-reviewed international journal, Tobacco Control. The title says it all:

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

         I urge you to either pass a local ordinance to give this effect with minimal delay, or put it on next November’s ballot. Thank you.

2011-11-15 P-D: “Bid to put smoking ban on St. Charles County ballot hits early snag”

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I presented testimony during the public portion last night in support of St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin’s effort to put two smoke-free air ordinances on the November 2011 ballot. Quite a few others also testified, pro and con taking turns. The testimony wasn’t what mattered though.

As often happens, it takes just one council member to change his or her mind before the public meeting even begins to determine the course of events. That apparently happened last night when Councilwoman Nancy Matheny, who had been expected to support Cronin’s bills, changed to opposition instead. Her reasoning seemed confused, on the one hand calling for a statewide ban, but also asking “Where does it stop?” and saying she is for personal choice. That may be because it was a recent decision she had made, and not thought through, the conjecture being that it was pressure from the Ameristar Casino which had changed her mind.

This is certainly a setback for this latest effort, but Cronin vowed to supporters after the meeting to keep on pushing for this legislation, saying that although he had initially not favored it, after researching the subject he now firmly believed it to be in the public interest.

P.S. Due to Adobe Photoshop not working on my new computer I cannot add photos taken during this event but hope to do so later.

Bid to put smoking ban on St. Charles County ballot hits early snag

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN • mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (124 as of November 17, 2011, 9:01 pm)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A newly revived effort to put a smoking ban up for a countywide vote next November already has run into political trouble.
         County Councilwoman Nancy Matheny, who in May had been among council members voting for an earlier version, said Monday that she wouldn’t support a ban this time around.
         That means backers are at least one vote short of the four needed on the seven-member council for approval of putting the issue to a vote.
         Matheny said she was worried that some affected businesses in St. Charles County, such as bars selling a small amount of food, would find it hard to compete against places in St. Louis County that have exemptions from a ban there. She said she now favored addressing the issue further only on a statewide basis.
         “I hate smoking … but this is America,” said Matheny, R-Weldon Spring. “People have rights to choose whether they go into an establishment where there is smoking or not.”
         Matheny spoke before and during Monday night’s County Council meeting, where two new proposed ballot issues were introduced by Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul.
         One measure would ask voters to decide whether to ban smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in both municipalities and unincorporated areas.
         The other calls for a separate countywide vote on exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles. Both would go on the ballot next November.
         Cronin’s earlier measure, approved in May on a 4-2 vote with one opponent absent, put the ban and the casino exemption in a single ballot issue.
         That measure was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann because of that and other exemptions. Last week Ehlmann said he was likely to support Cronin’s new approach because the measures involve county charter amendments, not a health ordinance.
         Cronin’s new casino measure would exempt Ameristar’s gambling floors only if current exemptions remain in effect for casinos in St. Louis County and St. Louis.
         His other new bill would eliminate exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco stores that were in the May bill that Ehlmann vetoed.

2011-11-11 P-D: “St. Charles County voters would decide separately on smoking ban, casino exemption under new proposal”

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It’s good to see this issue resurface, and in a stronger form than originally with almost all exemptions excluded. The only fly in the ointment is that casino gaming floors would still be smoke-polluted, even if the public approves these measures at the ballot box, unless casinos in St. Louis and St. Louis County also go smoke-free. Once again we see wealth trumping health when it comes to the politics of secondhand smoke.

St. Charles County voters would decide separately on smoking ban, casino exemption under new proposal

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7203 | Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:15 am | Comments (74 )

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Voters would get to decide whether to snuff out smoking, and whether gamblers should be excluded from a ban in bills that county leaders will consider on Monday.
         St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, said he hopes to persuade a majority on the seven-member council to support the two ballot issues he plans to introduce.
         “This effectively lets the two separate, but related, issues be decided by the voters based on their merits,” Cronin said in an email Thursday to other council members.
         County Executive Steve Ehlmann — who last June blocked a council-endorsed smoking ban from the ballot because it had too many exemptions — says he’s likely to allow the new measures to go forward.
         The council last May voted 4-2, with one opponent absent, for Cronin’s earlier proposal for a smoking ban that exempted Ameristar Casino, which is in St. Charles. That bill also included some other exceptions.
         Ehlmann vetoed the bill, saying there was no rational reason to exclude casino employees from a health ordinance. He also objected to the other exemptions for similar reasons.
         On Thursday, Ehlmann said his preliminary support of Cronin’s new approach is consistent with his previous veto.
         “The (Missouri) Constitution allows a charter county to let the people decide what the proper scope of the government is to be,” through charter amendments, Ehlmann said. “If this was a health ordinance, I’d still be opposed. I’m not flip-flopping on this.”
         Ehlmann added that although he probably wouldn’t block the separate casino exemption amendment from the ballot, he doesn’t favor its passage by voters. “I hope people have more sense than to create that exemption,” he said.
         To pass, each measure would need a simple majority approval by voters at the general election next November.
         Ehlmann said his supportive comments for Cronin’s new approach were based on Cronin’s description of the proposals. Ehlmann said he wants to review the actual wording before taking a final position.
         Meanwhile, County Council Chairman Joe Brazil, R-Defiance, opposes Cronin’s new measures just as he did the earlier one.
         “You’re telling businesses how to run their businesses,” he said.
         He added that it would be unfair to veterans groups with some members who are longtime smokers.
         Stacy Reliford, an American Cancer Society official active in a regional anti-smoking coalition, said, “It’s promising there’s going to be another round at the County Council on this issue.”
         She said the coalition remains opposed to an exemption for casinos.
         “We obviously want all workers to be protected and the law to be as comprehensive as possible,” she said.
         Ameristar has opposed government-imposed smoking bans.
         County Council members who favor exempting Ameristar worry that some of the casino’s jobs could be in jeopardy if smoking is banned there while smoking is allowed at the competing Harrah’s casino across the Missouri River in Maryland Heights.
         Cronin said his new casino measure would exempt Ameristar’s gambling floors only if existing exemptions for Harrah’s and other casinos in St. Louis County and St. Louis remain in effect.
Meanwhile, his other new measure would eliminate exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco stores that were in the          May bill that Ehlmann vetoed.
         However, Cronin said, the new plan includes the earlier bill’s provision allowing hotels and motels to set aside up to 20 percent of their rooms for smokers. Also again exempt, he said, would be private clubs with no employees.
         Cronin’s bills would cover unincorporated areas and cities in St. Charles County. The latest efforts to pass a countywide smoking ban follow a successful push last April for voter approval of a ban in the county’s largest city, O’Fallon, Mo. The only other part of the county with a ban is Lake Saint Louis.

2011-10-31 P-D: “Clayton restaurants thrive after smoking ban”

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Regarding this story, Missouri GASP’s position in support of smoke-free air is confined to the health and welfare benefits it confers upon society, and the removal of barriers to access for anyone who is smoke-sensitive or sickened by secondhand smoke (SHS). As with any other such issue, it should not be dependent on economic factors unless the costs to society greatly outweigh the gains. That is not the case with SHS.

If you review the reader comments following publication of this story on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website you’ll note some second-guessing on the part of pro-smoking proponents as to the story’s balance or reported facts. I doubt they’re valid since reporter, Margaret Gillerman, can be relied upon to be objective.

My only criticism is that the story’s headline makes it sound like there’s been a big jump in Clayton restaurant revenue following the smoke-free air law, which the story itself belies. The print version of the newspaper was more restrained:

Clayton’s restaurant revenue grew in first year of its smoking ban.
Small increase may have been helped by countywide, city bans.

Clayton restaurants thrive after smoking ban
BY MARGARET GILLERMAN • mgillerman@post-dispatch.com > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 12:15 am |
Comments (150 as of October 31, 2011, 10:39 pm)

CLAYTON • Despite warnings to the contrary, restaurants did nicely in Clayton in the first year of the city’s smoking ban.
         “The Clayton scene is alive and well and, most importantly, more healthy, than it has ever been,” said Mayor Linda Goldstein, who advocated the ban to protect public health. Sales tax revenue from restaurants is up slightly, and the number of restaurants is increasing, Goldstein said.
         The ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places went into effect July 1, 2010.
         City officials said that from July 2009 through April 2010, the city took in $1,677,269 in sales tax revenue from restaurants. From July 2010 through April 2011, the restaurants collected $1,684,029 in sales taxes, an increase of about $7,000.
         Clayton’s ban was followed by St. Louis County and city of St. Louis bans that went into effect on Jan. 2, 2011. Both the city and county bans include exemptions for establishments that do not sell much food.
         Frank Schmitz and some other Clayton restaurant owners initially had opposed Clayton’s ban. They had worried it could force them out of business if nearby municipalities did not enact bans.
         He said his BARcelona bar lost 20 percent of its business before the countywide ban went into effect.
         But it then bounced back.
         Schmitz said that he believed customers enjoy the smoke-free restaurants.
         “By allowing patrons to smoke on the sidewalk and sidewalk dining areas as well as on the back deck satisfies the need of our bar customers,” Schmitz said, adding that he would oppose banning smoking on sidewalks and on sidewalk dining areas.
         Goldstein noted that the revenue stayed stable in Clayton despite the ongoing economic downturn throughout the country. Although Clayton restaurants have had to confront that and some have closed in the weak economy, the smoking ban has been “a nonfactor,” Goldstein said.
         Even though some restaurants in Clayton did close, new ones opened in all but one of those same spots.