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.

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

  1. Mr. Pion, I don’t see myself a “pro-smoking”. Instead I am pro-property rights. I got interested in property rights issues after St. Louis University took my friend’s bar through eminent domain in the late 90’s. I see government imposed smoking bans as a type of eminent domain abuse. But I don’t have a problem with smoking bans when put in place by business owners.

    mogasp comment: I disagree. It’s inappropriate to apply property rights arguments to smoke-free air regulations. Your stance would make it a purely voluntary response to a significant public health and safety issue, and a cop out regarding a fundamental function of government. You don’t suggest this approach for other similar issues: building codes and food preparation. Why not make those things purely voluntary too?

  2. Mogasp wrote to Bill Hannegan: “You don’t suggest this approach for other similar issues: building codes and food preparation.”

    Mogasp, I’ve also never seen building codes and food preparation rules put up for public votes. Since you feel they’re the same sort of thing, are you saying you think that’s how such things should be decided?

    Or is the smoking issue truly something different… as Bill H seems to believe?

    – MJM

    mogasp response: I don’t see a distinction, but elected officials do evidently. If I were a local councilman and had to vote on this issue I would have no hesitation in supporting an ordinance to put this into effect with minimum delay.

  3. MOGASP, I think your speech misrepresented Mr. Hannegan’s and others who oppose bans when you said we argue that since tobacco is a legal product, and private business should make the decision. You leave so much out. We also argue that SHS is not nearly as harmful, (if at all) as you suggest, and we argue that even so, ventilation and filtration can solve any alleged problem., and we argue that even if some risk is involved, other similar risks are not banned, especially by special interest group pressure. So you should have consulted with Hannegan, and others before publically misrepresenting their beliefs before the council.

    mogasp reply: I don’t agree with your claim that I misrepresented opposition arguments to smoke-free air, or that SHS can be dealt with satisfactorily using “ventilation and filtration,” or is not an important public health issue.

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