Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011-12-29 STL Public Radio – “Tobacco expert: 2011 good year “overall” for non-smokers”

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Early today, KWMU Radio featured an interview with Sarah Shelton, a researcher with the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at Washington University in St. Louis. Ms. Shelton pronounced 2011 a good year “overall” for non-smokers, a statement with which I agree.

I learned of the interview after being copied by Bill Hannegan on his e-mail to the reporter, Julie Bierach. Mr. Hannegan took issue with researcher Sarah Shelton, arguing, for example, that the “new smoking ban in O’Fallon Missouri has already proven pretty catastrophic for O’Fallon small businesses.”

That view is to be expected, since the impact on business of smoke-free air laws has become the dominant theme of those attacking such laws, even though their aim is primarily to protect the public health and welfare, providing all employees with a healthier work environment, and removing unfair discrimination affecting those who are highly smoke-sensitive.

Below is the original article and following that Mr. Hannegan’s response, to which I’ve added some comments.

KWMU News Reporter
Julie Bierach

Tobacco expert: 2011 good year “overall” for non-smokers
By Julie Bierach
6:35AM Thu December 29, 2011

Sarah Shelton, a data analyst with the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at Washington University in St. Louis, says “overall” it’s been a good year for non-smokers in the St. Louis area. Smoking bans were implemented in several areas in St. Louis in 2011, including in the city and county. She spoke to St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie Bierach as part of our series “A Good Year” that, overall, it’s been a good year for non-smokers.

“The majority of non-smokers are protected. I think, in particular, people living in Brentwood and Creve Coeur, it’s been better for them. I think that we have some progress to make to make sure that next year is an even better year for all non-smokers in St. Louis.”

Here’s a summary of that conversation:

How important are smoking bans to safeguarding public health?

         Smoke-free laws really are essential to protecting the public’s health. Secondhand smoke exposure has been linked with cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses of all different kinds in non-smokers, and it’s considered the leading cause of indoor air pollution. Comprehensive smoke-free policies protect the public from all the toxins that are in secondhand smoke.
         One of the things in particular that is a good outcome of smoke-free policies is a reduction in heart attacks, which is important because heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States. According to an Institute for Medicine report, there is a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and increase risk of coronary heart disease among both men and women. That same report also concluded that there is a causal association between smoke-free laws and decreases in heart attacks in the communities where those laws are implemented.
         Smoke-free policies also encourage smokers to quit and also prevent kids from even starting.

How active has the Center for Tobacco Policy Research been in lobbying for these bans, encouraging municipalities to ban smoking in public places?

         As a Center, our main purpose is to do research and evaluation around the topic. We don’t necessarily go out and advocate or lobby for a particular ordinance or particular laws that are up for adoption.

I imagine that as someone who analyzes the data and researches tobacco use you would say there is more to be done?

         Absolutely. The laws that went into effect in January in the county and city are not comprehensive. They do exclude fair amounts of people from being protected from secondhand smoke, in particular, at casinos and bars. So there are people who visit casinos and bars, who work in casinos and bars for long hours, day after day, who are currently not protected by those policies. And there are a few municipalities within St. Louis County, in particular, that have gone above and beyond over the past year. Brentwood and Creve Coeur both passed strong, comprehensive policies that are stronger than the county ordinance.

Do you think that as the months go by and it becomes more evident how smoking bans impact businesses, do you think more municipalities and counties will take the initiative and not be so afraid to ban smoking?

         Absolutely. Last year Clayton implemented a strong comprehensive smoke-free policy and they’ve been very vocal about how it has not impacted business. In fact, some business owners and community members believe that it has brought more business into their area. So, as we see more examples of where the sky does not fall, then I think people will be more and more likely to move forward with it.
         Brentwood and Creve Coeur implementing these strong policies is in line with what’s happening throughout the rest of the state as well. In the past year, Jefferson City, O’Fallon, and Raleigh have all passed strong comprehensive smoke-free laws as well.

Below is Mr. Hannegan’s e-mail to KWMU reporter, Ms. Julie Bierach, on which he copied me:

Bill Hannegan

Dear Ms. Bierach,

         I read your interview with Sarah Shelton this morning.
         I would like to point out that Ms. Shelton failed to mention that the new smoking ban in O’Fallon Missouri has already proven pretty catastrophic for O’Fallon small businesses.
         This business loss in O’Fallon in part caused the St. Charles County Council to reject any smoking ban that does not exempt “over 21” businesses. No doubt this O’Fallon business loss will also make any extension of the St. Louis County smoking ban less likely.
         Clayton’s smoking ban was put forward in the interview by Ms. Shelton as a financial success, yet Clayton restaurant revenues went flat after the imposition of the ban, despite the reopening of Highway 40.

[mogasp comment: Clayton’s smoke-free air ordinance took effect in mid-July 2009. Reviewing the actual tax data for 2009 thru 2011 gives a different picture from the one painted by Mr. Hannegan.
In fact, receipts went up every year for eating and drinking places for comparable 3-month periods, as illustrated below for July thru Sept, particularly this past year:

Clayton Eating & Drinking Taxable Sales ($) for comparable periods

Sales receipts for Easting & Drinking Establishments were up by a modest 1.5% for 2010 compared to 2009, but then jumped by 7.6% for 2011 when compared to 2009.
Note: I’m indebted to Mr. Stan Cowan for providing MO Dept of Revenue information for Clayton on which the above chart is based. ]

         Ms. Shelton suggested that smoking bans cut heart attack rates in communities that impose them. But even St. Louis smoking ban activist Martin Pion has called this claim into question on his blog. Later research has shown that heart attack rates are as likely to rise as to fall immediately after the start of a smoking ban. Please find key studies concerning this issue attached.

[mogasp comment: Mr. Hannegan is doing some cherry picking here. He’s correct that this influential Tuscany study found no immediate reduction in heart attacks during the first year after smoke-free air laws went into effect.
However, here’s an important conclusion of the Tuscany authors which Mr. Hannegan has conveniently ignored:
In particular, a decrease of cardiovascular events in the long run is expected, given the conclusive association with chronic SHS exposure.” ]

         Finally, the CDC sent over seven million dollars to St. Louis County in hopes of seeing public smoking restrictions greatly extended by the end of 2011. Ms. Shelton is correct that Brentwood and Creve Couer extended their bans to include bars and private clubs. But this amounted to only four establishments being added to the existing County ban. We were able to persuade Beth Kistner and the Creve Coeur City Council to exempt existing private clubs.


Bill Hannegan

Home phone: 314.367.3779
Cell phone: 314.315.3779


A look back: The case that started Missouri GASP

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I was doing some infrequent vacuuming in my bedroom when I noticed a large piece of cardboard which had fallen behind my chest of drawers. On retrieving it I found pasted to it a roughly 13 inch square newspaper article (see below) dating back to the early days of Missouri GASP when it was still called St. Louis GASP. It also featured the battle fought by Paul Smith in his smoky workplace which had galvanized supporters and led to GASP’s formation.

The newspaper is brown from age but the article remains relevant, demonstrating what a long hard slog this has been to arrive where we are today, with most workplaces now totally smoke-free, except for holdouts like casinos and small bars. And there are still vocal opponents, except now the tobacco lobby is largely absent, replaced by deep pocket casino interests, or smokers and their supporters. They either stubbornly oppose smoke-free air protections, or they are fighting to undo those gains by arguing, for example, that in adult-only establishments the rules shouldn’t apply. (To be consistent, that logic would imply that smoking should be allowed in ANY adult-only workplace!)

My wife helped me transcribe the above article and I reproduce it below to give you a taste of what it was like in those early days.

GASP Wages Battle for Smokefree Work and Public Places
Press Journal Feb. 13, 1985, page 5
By Susan Kostal
Journal Staff Writer

         One member is a computer programmer with MasterCard who cringes when someone pulls out an object resembling a cigarette.
         Another is a retired woman who has twice battled cancer.
         A third is a TWA employee who is highly sensitive to cigarette smoke.
         All are members of St. Louis GASP – Group Against Smoking Pollution, an environmental political action group of 80 people who battle for their right to a smoke-free environment.
         The group sprang up a year ago in support of member Paul Smith’s suit against AT&T asking for a smoke-free working environment. (See related story.)
         GASP is a loosely connected with ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) and other GASPs around the country. Members include nonsmokers, ex-smokers, those highly allergic or sensitive to cigarette smoke and those simply interested in the issue.
         AND GASP members intend to make it an issue.

         Martin Pion, St. Louis GASP president, said studies show that not only is smoking dangerous to the health of the smoker, it also is dangerous to “passive smokers” subjected to “sidestream” rather than “mainstream” smoke.
         A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that between 500 and 5,000 nonsmokers die each year of lung cancer caused by the pollutants from tobacco smoke from others.
         The EPA concluded “passive” tobacco smoke is the nation’s most dangerous carcinogen. In answer, the GASP philosophy statement says smoking should be “limited to consenting adults in private.”
         But members are not totally unsympathetic to smokers.
         “We realize we can’t ask everybody to go cold turkey,” Pion said.
         Instead, the group battles in the courts and through informal activism, such as boycotting restaurants that do not offer no-smoking sections, seeking smoke-free work environments and displaying anti-smoking buttons and posters.
         “Clean air is our right,” Pion said.

         ATTORNEY CLARK Cole, a member and consultant to the group, said “there is no constitutional right to smoke, therefore there are no laws against prohibiting it. Legislation is the best, almost the only way to go.”
         Member and free-lance writer Mary Jo Blackwood said 38 states have a non-smoking law on their books. Missouri had two laws relating to the sale of cigarettes to minors on the books until 1977.
         GASP has high hopes for the Missouri Clean Indoor Air Act, Pion said. The group also had discussed with City of St. Louis aldermen the possibility of a smoking ordinance.
         Their model is San Francisco’s anti-smoking law, instituted in March 1984. The law requires employers to write a smoking policy that allows a non-smoker to object to smoke in the workplace without fear of losing his or her job. If an acceptable solution cannot be found, smoking must be banned in the office or work area.
         While non-smokers are waiting for laws to more strictly regulate smokers, they can fight individual battles. Cole said blowing smoke in someone’s face has been termed battery, and if that person has the time and money he can take the offending smoker to court.
         MOST GASP members do not have that kind of money, Pion said. They prefer to work towards educating the public about the rights of non-smokers and introducing protective legislation at the state and local level. Most members feel a favorable decision in Smith’s suit would speed the legislative process.
         Until then, each will continue to fight for a smoke-free environment in their own way.
         The next meeting of GASP is at 7 pm, March 4, in the Hawthorn Room in the basement of Deaconess Hospital College of Nursing. For more information write GASP at PO Box 6086, SW Station, St. Louis, 63139.

The Court Case That Started It All
By Susan Kostal
Journal Staff Writer

         Judge Alphonso Voorhees was besieged with briefs and deluged with depositions at the close of Paul E. Smith vs. AT&T in August, 1984, a case which will decide if an employee has the right to demand a smoke-free work place.
         Six months after the three-day trial, Smith said he doesn’t mind waiting for a decision. “Ten years ago, I would not have won this lawsuit. As time goes on, my case becomes stronger and stronger,” said the Chesterfield man, a former employee of AT&T, formerly Western Union.
(This should read: Western Electric.)
         Judge Voorhees, of the St. Louis County Circuit Court, Division 13, is in the difficult position of deciphering a complicated case that began in the courts in 1980. The case will set precedent in Missouri law, whether Smith wins or loses, his lawyer says.
         AT&T DISAGREES that the case is sure to set Missouri precedent. “There is a range of decisions the judge might make. We do not know what the final determination will be,” said Jim Crackel, media spokesman for AT&T.
         “We don’t know what magnitude it will set. There have been several (similar) cases that have already come up and found in favor of both the plaintiff and the defendant.” Those cases have not had a great impact on company smoking policy, locally or nationally, Crackel said.
         Smith began with the company in 1950, when smoking was not permitted in the office. After a new ventilation system was installed, employees were allowed to smoke, he said.
         At the time of the suit, he was an engineering assistant with a handsome salary. However, he said the money was not compensation for the discomfort he experienced when exposed to cigarette smoke. He said he developed nausea, headaches, and chest pains. His blood pressure, now back to normal, was substantially higher, he said.

Paul Smith, a member of St. Louis Group Against Smoking Pollution, is waiting for a decision on his court case against AT&T. He has sued the company for a smoke-free environment. The case involves literally pounds of expert testimony
and lengthy depositions.

         EXTENSIVE clinical testing showed he had a high sensitivity to smoke and an immune system that was not regulating itself properly. His symptoms grew worse when he worked overtime, when the regular ventilation system was turned off, he said.
         Smith donned a respirator to screen smoke from the air he breathed. The sound level in his helmet was measured 70 decibels, he said, and did not help his situation.
         After a lengthy effort to persuade AT&T to establish a smoking policy, Smith filed suit against the company in 1980, seeking an injunction against smoking in the work place.
         AT&T did not turn a deaf ear to Smith’s complaints, said Bill Winzerling, spokesman for AT&T.
         “WE HAVE DONE a multitude of things to accommodate our employee, including negative and positive respirators, moving him away from individuals who smoke and offering him several other jobs and accommodations. We have sent him to other institutions for evaluations as well, at company expense.”

(mogasp note: In reality, Western Electric retaliated against Paul Smith, forcing him to wear this noisy cumbersome full-head respirator instead of providing him with a smoke-free working environment.)

         The case was initially dismissed on the grounds that the issue was not in the jurisdiction of Missouri common law.

Morley Swingle, now Cape Girardeau Prosecuting Attorney

         Smith and Cape Girardeau lawyer Morley Swingle appealed the decision to the Missouri Appellate Court. The appeals court ruled unanimously in September 1982 that Smith had the right to sue, thereby establishing the common law right to a safe work environment, Smith said.
         AT&T contends Smith’s case is unique. Aside from Smith, the company has had few complaints concerning smoking in the workplace, said Winzerling.
         “THE MAJORITY of our employees are satisfied. We believe he is a unique situation, hypersensitive to smoke,” said Winzerling. “We have a strong case, and we will be upheld.”
         The case went to trial went to trial in August 1984. During the trial, Smith said he was called mentally ill, a hypochondriac and a crusader.
         “Every effort was made to discredit me,” said Smith. Several doctors for the plaintiff testified he was not neurotic, just determined, he said.
         In the meantime, his wife also filed suit against the company. She now works in a smoke-free environment at a savings and loan. There was a time, however, when Smith’s dispute with AT&T put a strain on his marriage, and his wife filed for divorce. The couple has since reconciled. Smith calls her “very supportive.”
         Smith’s case was widely publicized and very expensive. A political action group, St. Louis GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), formed to support him. Smith has “boxes of letters” from around the country encouraging him in his fight. He has received several donations as well.

         SMITH SAID he is not suing for punitive damages, but for a smoke-free work place. His physician recommended he go on sick leave, and when he had used all his sick days in April 1984, he was “forced into early retirement,” he said.
         He is now unemployed.
         Smith said he isn’t asking for a total ban on cigarette smoking at AT&T. “But they could set up smoking lounges on separate ventilation systems. I don’t think the whole workplace should be one.”
         Crackel said a total ban on smoking and the establishment of smoking lounges would be considerable expense to the company.
         But that is exactly what Smith has demanded. “The problems (between smokers and nonsmokers) are not always resolved through compromise and courtesy,” said Smith.

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2011-12-13 P-D: “Challenge to Clayton outdoor smoking ban rejected”

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I didn’t notice this article until going through the newspaper today before recycling it, but this is good news for the City of Clayton and it’s smoke-free air efforts, led by progressive Mayor Linda Goldstein.

Gallagher and his legal team puff tobacco smoke into Shaw Park for a reporter

The original lawsuit generated a lot of publicity when it was first filed by Clayton attorney Mr. Bevis Schock, who had sought a plaintiff.
         He found a willing cigar smoker in Mr. Arthur Gallagher, who responded to an ad. Following is just one of the numerous stories posted on this blog featuring a clownish photo of the group deliberately violating the new law.
         (See 2011/3/3 Mo Lawyers: “Clayton smoker lights up lawsuit against ban,” posted on March 9, 2011, accompanied by the photo at left.)

Early-bird Post-Dispatch reader Mr. Bill Hannegan kicked off the reader comments at 1:28 am on December 13, 2011 with this:

“How does Arthur Gallagher smoking a cigar on a Clayton park bench threaten public health? What rational basis does such a restriction have?”

Mr. Hannegan cannot see any problem with drifting cigar smoke in a public park. If Mr. Gallagher were to wear a fish bowl over his head while puffing on his cigar I’d agree.

The lawyer is reportedly planning to appeal. Since it’s his time and money, good luck with that.

Challenge to Clayton outdoor smoking ban rejected
BY Margaret Gillerman • > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (24 as of December 15, 2011, 2:33 am)

CLAYTON • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Clayton that sought to overturn the city’s ban on smoking on outdoor, city-owned property, including public parks.
         “The city was confident that our ordinance was enacted properly and within the authority of municipal public health concerns,” said Mayor Linda Goldstein.
         Attorneys W. Bevis Schock and Hugh Eastwood filed the suit on behalf of resident Arthur Gallagher, who enjoyed smoking cigars in city parks. The suit claimed that the ordinance violated Gallagher’s constitutional rights. Among the arguments, the suit said that ‘smoking is a fundamental right” and asserted that smokers are persecuted and members of a legally protected class.
         Schock said Monday that his client would appeal.
         “It really comes down to whether the federal courts are going to hold the line where there really isn’t any evidence of health benefits at all” for banning outdoor smoking, he said. “The question is whether they are going to let the members of the Board of Aldermen — who respond to fashion — infringe on our liberty.
         “My client is eager to continue. He said, ‘Give it all you got.'”
         In his 15-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw dismissed the federal constitutional claims.
         “The Court finds that liberty and justice would exist if smoking in the city’s public parks was sacrificed,” he wrote in the decision filed Friday. “The Court finds that no fundamental right is at stake.”
         Clayton banned smoking in most public buildings in July 2009, effective July 2010. At the urging of the parks commision and then-Alderman Alex Berger III, the city expanded the ban to include outdoor publicly owned spaces starting Jan. 1. The lawsuit was filed by Schock in March.
         The outdoor ordinance bars lighting up in parks, on playgrounds and all other city-owned or leased facilities. That includes city-owned parking garages and lots. The law allows smoking on sidewalks, streets and alleys. Penalties are up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
         “We thank the court for upholding the strong consensus among Clayton residents that smoking in public places is something they want in their history, not their future,” Goldstein said.

Michael J. McFadden suggests that some asthmatics’ symptoms may be “all in the head”

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A recent mogasp blog – 2011-11-28 Patch: “St. Charles County Council to Consider Smoking Ban Monday Night Smoke-free bills appear deadlocked at 3-3 ..” elicited a fair number of comments, leading eventually to a smoke-free air opponent, Michael McFadden, questioning whether complaints from smoke-sensitive asthmatics about SHS weren’t at least in part psycological, i.e. not really a medical problem at all.

In support of this contention Mr. McFadden provided references to a number of peer-reviewed papers published in the 1970s, as well as direct quotes.

It’s an interesting argument having some potential legitimacy. The question is, does it amount to enough of an argument to negate the efforts of asthmatics or others with medical conditions who claim that exposure to SHS is highly detrimental to their health, and can trigger an asthma attack, for example.

Following is Mr. McFadden’s argument. It will be interesting to see if others can provide scientific evidence to counter it.

Michael McFadden, author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains

Michael J. McFadden
Submitted on 2011/12/15 at 1:55 am

Quoted elsewhere by “Walt”

“Luparello et al(1968) measured changes in airway resistance directly by body plethysmography. They showed that asthmatic subjects reacted with increased airway resistance when given nebulized saline to inhale and told it was the allergen … associated with his attacks. 19 of 40 asthmatics showed a significant increase in airway resistance and 12 developed attacks of bronchial spasm which were reversed with an inhaled saline placebo. … In another study, isoprenaline and carbachol were each presented to 20 asthmatic subjects by inhalation. Each drug was presented twice under double-blind conditions. [First] the subject was told that it was a bronchodilator that would open his airways and make it easier to breathe and in the other, he was told it was a bronchoconstrictor. The suggestion produced significant changes in response to the drugs in the direction that had been suggested.”

This leads the author (Cohen) to opine about studies on the subject of conditioning that showed that hay fever sufferers who knew a particular flower caused attacks could get an attack by merely being shown a paper imitation of that flower. Citing Vaughn, 1939 and an 1886 (not a typo) study by MacKenzie.

Per “Anxiety Reduction in Asthma” Kinsman et al, Psychcosom Res, 1980

Luparello’s findings were repeated by:

Spector et al “Response of asthmatics to methacholine and suggestion,” Am Rev Resp Dis, 113; 1976

Strupp et al, “Effects of suggestion on total respiratory resistance in mild asthmatics,” Psychosom Res, 18; 1974

Phillipp et al “Suggestion and relaxation in asthmatics,” Psychosom Res 16; 1972

(Above offered in support of my contention that the anxiety/stress/fear brought on by the antismoking movement may actually cause MORE attacks today than smoke.)

mogasp comment: Your thesis may or may not have validity. You are quoting research dating to the 1970s and I don’t know if those conclusions are still current.
The paper you reference in your initial comment actually opens with a quote from Moses Maimonides (1135-1204)! That could mean that little has changed in the understanding of this disease or that it is complex and our knowledge has improved. It may well be that in some cases psychological factors play a role, but I don’t view the evidence you present as a valid response to efforts to provide smoke-free air.
I know several very smoke-sensitive asthmatics and also a person who is a former smoker, now a laryngectomy survivor, and I don’t view any of them as having been influenced by “the antismoking movement.” On the contrary, they have become active in promoting smoke-free air as a result of the effect of SHS on their health and welfare.

2011-12-06 P-D: “Lake Saint Louis alderman may challenge Brazil in primary”

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Ald. John Pellerito first made known the possibility of his challenging St. Louis County Council Chairman, Joe Brazil, for his seat in a comment published just recently on this blog.

(Please see the comments following the article on the mogasp blog 2011-11-28 Patch: St. Charles County Council to Consider Smoking Ban Monday Night Smoke-free bills appear deadlocked at 3-3 .. where Pellerito wrote, regarding St. Charles County Council’s reluctance to support smoke-free air:

I will try to change that if I am elected to the council.)

Today’s story (below) by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Mark Schlinkmann, fleshes this out:

Lake Saint Louis alderman may challenge Brazil in primary

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN • > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:35 pm | Comments (4 as of December 6, 2011, 10:37 pm)

Ald. John Pellerito
Lake St. Louis

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Some political fallout from last week’s County Council smoking ban rejection may be a looming Republican primary challenge for Council Chairman Joe Brazil.
         Lake Saint Louis Alderman John Pellerito said Tuesday he’s “98 percent sure” he’ll run against Brazil for his 2nd District seat in the primary next August.
         Pellerito sponsored the Lake Saint Louis ordinance passed last year that bans smoking in restaurants, bars and most other enclosed public places in that city.
         Brazil is a staunch opponent of government-imposed smoking bans and voted last week against a bill to put a countywide prohibition on the Nov. 2012 ballot. That bill failed on a 3-3 tie vote.
         “That would definitely be a contentious issue” between them, Pellerito said.
         And if a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot fails to materialize, he quipped, “I’d probably be the next best weapon.”
         Brazil, meanwhile, said he’s confident he’ll win re-election next year and said his stand against a smoking ban has widespread support among his constituents. Besides Lake Saint Louis, the district includes the county’s large semi-rural southwest corner.
         “They don’t want all the government and all the intrusions,” said Brazil, of Defiance. “They don’t want people telling them ‘no smoking’.”
         Brazil said he doesn’t like smoking himself but believes businesses should have the right to decide whether to allow it. He also says a ban would hurt veterans groups.
         Pellerito said he’s been considering running for the county body for a couple of years and that he’d also talk about other issues. He added that he’ll first run for re-election as alderman in Lake Saint Louis’ April municipal election.

2011-11-28 Patch: “St. Charles County Council to Consider Smoking Ban Monday Night Smoke-free bills appear deadlocked at 3-3 ..”

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Councilwoman Nancy Matheny is evidently the swing vote on St. Charles County Council and the reason for the recent failure of legislative efforts by Councilman Joe Cronin to advance his smoke-free agenda. The O’Fallon Patch, an on-line news outlet, published a story providing a lot more insight into Councilwoman Nancy Matheny’s views on the subject of SHS. It doesn’t make her opposition to a comprehensive smoke-free air law any more acceptable though. I posted the following comment after reading this story:

3:07pm on Thursday, December 1, 2011

It’s a public health issue which has become deliberately confused by arguments having nothing to do with public health. We can thank Big Tobacco and its present-day surrogates for that.
As for this being a statewide issue, there has always been far too much opposition from entrenched tobacco interests to get more than a token statewide law, which is what we have now. That law doesn’t require a single place in the state to be smoke-free.
I know because initially Missouri GASP, of which I’m president, worked hard for many years at the state level and finally gave up and instead concentrated on local ordinances, which has proved to be far more successful.

St. Charles County Council to Consider Smoking Ban Monday Night
Smoke-free bills appear deadlocked at 3-3; possibility of an initiative petition looms over the meeting
November 28, 2011          Comments

The proposed St. Charles County smoking ban is likely to suffer a setback Monday night. Three council members support the countywide smoke-free ordinance and three members are opposed.
         Council member Paul Wynn, R-District 4, likely will be out of town and unable to vote. Wynn has also adamantly opposed smoke-free laws.
         A tie would send council members back to the drawing board or some residents out to begin gathering signatures for an initiative petition.

Councilwoman Nancy Matheny

         Councilwoman Nancy Matheny, R-District 3, said she has heard plenty from both sides of the issue over the past two weeks.
         “It always seems like more than it really is—I’ve probably had about 50 (phone calls and emails),” said Matheny, of Weldon Spring.
         Last spring, Matheny supported a smoking ban bill introduced by Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1. That bill, which was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, had several exemptions for businesses, including the casino. However, when Cronin re-introduced the smoking ban, it had fewer exemptions and it separated out a casino exemption in a separate bill.
         “I don’t think I changed my vote,” Matheny said. “I am in favor of a smoking ban.”
         She said that as things stand now, the ban would hurt too many people, affecting the city of St. Charles, school districts and casino employees and other businesses.
         “Mostly, it’s the inequity,” Matheny said. “If we can’t do it statewide, as the County Executive says, it just picks winners and losers. You would have St. Louis County operating under one set of rules and St. Charles County under another set of rules. We need to have the same rules in a region at the very least.”
         She noted that Ameristar Casino invested $100 million in its St. Charles facility.
         “We voted back in the ‘90s to have them come in here. I don’t think we can just throw them under the bus now,” Matheny said.
         Taking the initiative?
         One possibility hanging over the heads of council members is an initiative petition.
         Stacy Reliford, field government relations director of the American Cancer Society in St. Louis, said it’s too soon to say whether St. Charles County residents will start an initiative petition drive to change the county charter assuming the smoking measure fails Monday.
         “I don’t think there’s been any final decision on that,” Reliford said. “You never know what’s going to happen in politics. The group will be prudent in its actions.”
         She said with the oncoming holiday season, the group is unlikely to take any immediate action.
         A middle road?
         In fact, Matheny said the council might not be done exploring variations on the smoking ban.
         “We have not sat down and discussed a smoking ban as a council,” Matheny said.
         She said there might be a middle-of-the-road proposal acceptable both to county council members and the county executive.
         One possibility would be banning smoking in restaurants, but not bars or the casino—essentially banning smoking in any establishment that admits people under age 21.
         “Most bars and the casino don’t allow anyone under 21 anyway, she said.
         However, Reliford said that those who support a smoke-free St. Charles County would oppose a law that applies only to establishments that allow children or those under age 21.
         “People 21 and older are affected by secondhand smoke,” Reliford said. “Plus, places that have that rule end up having enforcement issues because people are confused about which places have smoking bans.”
         “At the end of the day, there’s no public health benefit because not every place is smoke free,” Reliford added.