My thanks to Pat Lindsey, director of Tobacco-Free St. Louis, for suggesting I take a closer look at this good article in the on-line Beacon describing yesterday’s press event at which Dr. Slavin was a key speaker.
One can conclude from the article that it doesn’t necessarily reduce smoking but that smoke-free air extended to bars would certainly protect employees from exposure to secondhand smoke, while also ensuring a smoke-free public venue.
Areas with most smoking-related illness have most exemptions to smoking ban
By Robert Joiner, Beacon health reporter
Posted 10:23 am Fri., 1.27.12
Many establishments that are exempted from St. Louis County’s public-smoking ban are in areas with the highest incidences of smoking-related illnesses, according to an analysis by Tobacco-Free St. Louis. It also argues that the exemptions could undo the health benefits of the Clean Air Act and that they are unfair to the majority of county establishments that have banned smoking.
According to an analysis by Tobacco-Free St. Louis, 56 of the exempted establishments are in north county. Another 41 are in south county, 29 are in west county and the remaining 20 are in the mid-county region, including the smoke-free communities of Clayton, Brentwood and Kirkwood.
“But what’s striking to me is that if you look at illnesses that may be smoking related, whether it is heart attacks or hospitalization for chronic lung diseases, you will find significantly greater risks and rates in north county,” Slavin said.
He also said that many residents of north county may lack adequate access to health care and “can least afford to suffer from these problems.”
He added, “We aren’t saying this is the cause of health disparity. But it certainly is one that’s contributing, and it’s easy to fix. It simply requires an act of the County Council, and these exemptions would disappear.”
No council members were available to comment on the analysis, which shows that the 56 exemptions are in districts represented by Democrats Hazel Erby of University City, Kathleen Kelly of Overland, and Council Chair Michael O’Mara of Florissant. Kelly and O’Mara have raised questions over the years about the ban.
In any case, Slavin says ending the exemptions would level the playing field by “making all the casinos, bars and restaurants smoke-free so that everybody is playing by the same rules.”
In addition, he says, the Clean Air Act would do much to protect residents in St. Louis and St. Louis County while the exemptions undermine the benefits.
“These exemptions allow people who work in these bars and casinos to continue to be exposed to what we know is a dangerous substance: second-hand smoke. We feel that that should not be allowed to continue,” Slavin says.
Those who support a right to smoke continue to say that bans ignore individual freedom and should be modified to account for filtration and other systems they say can address health issues.
TO GET AN EXEMPTION
The “Indoor Clean Air Code” allows smoking in drinking establishments with a valid liquor license that have applied for and met the qualifications for exemption.
St. Louis County Ordinance 605.030 defines the term “Drinking Establishment” as follows:
Any business with a valid license issued by the St. Louis County Department of Revenue (pursuant to Chapter 801, Title VIII SLCRO 1974 as amended, “Alcoholic Beverages”) to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink or to sell beer and light wine by the drink whose on-site sales of food for consumption on the premises comprises no more than 25% of gross sales of food and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on an annual basis.
–St. Louis County Department of Revenue