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.

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

  1. Since second hand smoke has never been banned by OSHA, why are YOU the expert on this? Call OSHA in and if some place is dangerous OSHA will close it.

    mogasp comment: You evidently know little about OSHA’s role in regulating SHS. During Clinton’s presidency OSHA was pursuing rule making of SHS exposure in the workplace, but eventually a majority of advocacy groups opposed it on the grounds that it would roll back more comprehensive regulation, e.g. by local ordinances. It’s hard to say if those fears were justified, but the reality is that the goal of smoke-free workplaces is being realized by such means.

  2. if the smoking ban is based on health issues, how on earth does it fall to a vote of the voters to decide whether the casinos should be exempted? Has anyone ever heard of anything like that for any OTHER “health issue”?

    Of course not. And that’s simply because the smoking bans are NOT a health issue in any real sense of the words, despite the fact that that’s the way they’ve generally been framed to the public. To call the exposure to secondhand smoke at the levels you’d ordinarily find in any decently ventilated business or recreational venue a “threat to health” is nonsense.

    MoGasp, I know you will disagree with me, and you will probably refer to EPA PM 2.5 standards while doing so. But if you ARE going to do that, please use the proper standards: 8 hrs/day for workers or 1hr peaks for short term or occasional visitors.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: You need to pose that question to elected officials, whom I consider to be ducking their responsibilities to protect the public health and welfare.

  3. Just like our constitutionally protected rights, public health should not be subject to or decided by “popular vote”. Cigarette smoke is not only nauseating to smell, it contains carcinogens that can kill you. This is what the politicians want to put to a vote? “OK, will all those in favor of stinking up the place and endangering the lives of your fellow diners (and the restaurant employees), please raise your right hand? Well, it looks like the “Ayes” have it. Sorry you non-smokers. Get used to smelling like a cess pool and caring around an oxygen bottle. Because thanks to this vote, the majority has decided they don’t give a damn about your heath.” Better you should stink and die an early death rather than require these “You’re taking away my basic rights” assholes to simply step outside to smoke.
    I don’t know whom I have more contempt for. The selfish, inconsiderate, thoughtless smokers who could care less about their fellow diners/gamblers, etc. or the spineless, gutless politicians that would trade the health and comfort of so many people for a few votes.
    Dave Godfrey

    mogasp comment: Thanks for your comment. Please note for future reference that the character count, including spaces, should be 1,000 or less. Yours slightly tops that at 1,075.

  4. Nice spin Martin, The real fear was when ASH’s Banzaff tried to sue OSHA. (Of course we all know that nutjob is now suing the Catholic church.)
    The real fear was if they lost it would kill all the bans already in place. This fear is very real since legitimate scientists don’t drink the tobacco control kool-aid. The likes of Sir Richard Doll

    He quoted only from his figures and was no absolutist. When questioned recently on second-hand smoke, he exasperated the anti-smoking lobby by replying: “The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn’t worry me.”

    Or Sir Richard Peto, in testimony before the House of Commons, argued that the risks of secondhand smoke are small and difficult to quantify. Because of this, he refused in his testimony to support the policy of banning smoking in public places. . . .

    But hey who’s keeping track?

    mogasp character count = 984 after adding a “?” to your last sentence.

  5. As to MJM’s comment
    “MoGasp, I know you will disagree with me, and you will probably refer to EPA PM 2.5 standards while doing so. But if you ARE going to do that, please use the proper standards: 8 hrs/day for workers or 1hr peaks for short term or occasional visitors.”

    Using bastardized EPA standards has long been a tactic within Tobacco Control as pointed out in this piece that I did.

  6. Dave Godfrey, why didn’t you tell us how you really FEEL? :> Actually you did just fine. If voters vote smoking bans just on the basis of smell (which you certainly seem to feel strongly about) then I might be unhappy but I’d have a hard time arguing against it. But if an advocate warns nonsmokers that they’ll end up “carrying an oxygen bottle” because some casino somewhere allows smoking — Well, THAT is something I’d have a problem with. Please produce a study showing that the smoke levels in a decently ventilated venue (Perhaps you can use Martin’s measurements from a year ago in STL or those from the Black Dog study?) cause emphysema in general nonsmokers.

    Marshall, one of the odd things about the EPA PM 2.5 standards is that they publish hourly and/or 8hourly standards for their other “signal pollutants” but for some strange reason they seem to avoid doing it for PM 2.5. Could it be because it would mess up the smoking bans?

    Martin? Any info/thoughts/insights on that?

    – MJM

    mogasp character count = 985. “Good!” That’s my only comment at this time. Your question requires more than a knee-jerk reaction and more time than I can devote to it at present. Maybe others will jump in to reply.

  7. I just can’t understand why Mr. godfrey can’t limit himself to all the venues which hae already eliminated smoking voluntarly.. As of yet, I have not heard a sensible answer to that question from any ban advocate.

    mogasp comment: Let me try and answer you. Should a prospective employee be required to inhale secondhand smoke just to hold a job? That’s a fundamental reason for making workplaces (and not just public places) smoke-free.

  8. Thank you MoGASP. And now, if I may follow up with a paraphrased comment to your response to Dave:

    ” Should a prospective employee be required to expose themselves to carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation just to hold a job? That’s a fundamental reason for requiring public swimming pools to be indoors”

    Remember: sunscreen and awnings and umbrellas provide only “partial protection” — and no protection at all if a lifeguard actually has to risk their life under the sun by jumping in to rescue one of those thoughtless melanoma basters who decides to avoid a painful cancerous death by conveniently trying to drown themselves!

    ::sigh:: Some folks just have NO consideration of others, eh?

    – MJM

  9. MOGASP, there are no data that, with modern ventilation systems which the 2006 SG report says remove 85-90% of smoke, is not already sufficient to protect these workers, from this trumped up so-called health risk.These workers by the way, about half are themselves smokers. Again, back to Shelia’s OSHA arguments as per above. It’s OSHA’s job, not yours. I believe OSHA, so your beliefs are merely opinions–not facts.
    BTW,, there are fewer jobs and lower incomes when bans are in effect.
    Why not limit the voting to just the effected workers???? let them decide–not you.

    mogasp reply: You are not informed about OSHA, or ventilation. The rules OSHA were formulating regarding SHS in the workplace were quietly dropped during the George W Bush administration. Ventilation is not the answer: that has been proven by independent measurements to my satisfaction.

  10. Martin, OSHA dropped the rules when ASH withdrew its lawsuit trying to force an OSHA standard. ASH withdrew the lawsuit because they knew that OSHA, on the basis of actual worker safety, would NOT have ruled for a total ban.

    To say “Ventilation is not the answer” is the same as my saying “Sunscreen and awnings are not the answer” when faced with the desires of you and others to continue to kill workers with patio dining. (In saying that I’m assuming you feel partial protections against carcinogens are unacceptable and continue to refuse to speak against patio dining. You have no duty, as MoGasp, to take a such a public stand — we’ve agreed on that previously I believe — but as a human being, given your general beliefs on subjecting workers to risks, I’d think you are most certainly morally culpable in their deaths if you refuse to at least state opposition to it. Exposure to deadly solar radiation is neither inherent nor necessary to drinking or dining.)

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: Your OSHA account doesn’t agree entirely with my knowledge of what happened, so we’ll have to disagree on that. I’m glad you’re not obliging me to discuss issues which are not relevant to SHS! (I think restaurant patios should be smoke-free too but that probably won’t happen in my lifetime.)

  11. ventilation works for everything else. Nothing magic about cig smoke which violates the laws of physics. So your satisfaction and OSHA’s are two different things.

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