2012-02-15 P-D: “Smoking ban citations are few and far between in St. Louis area”

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A good roundup of the current secondhand smoke scene in the St. Louis region by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Margaret Gillerman. It has generated a lively debate among supporters and opponents on the Post-Dispatch website, which you can reach by clicking on the Comments live link below. Here’s a comment I posted recently in response to earlier posts.

From measurements that I have made, plus more recent measurements made independently for Missouri GASP, I can state without hesitation that no ventilation system I have encountered in metro St. Louis provides an acceptable alternative to smoke-free air.
Mr. Bill Hannegan makes scientific pronouncements but he is not a scientist and doesn’t have the knowledge to back up his statements.
When working at the former McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. in St Louis I was responsible for designing and running a semiconductor clean room, which is the exact opposite of a room in which smoking is permitted – what I would term a “dirty room.”
I have not seen any technical proposal for a room in which smoking is allowed which would not simultaneously permit unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke (SHS) to diffuse to an adjoining nominally smoke-free area. Nor would such a room shield non-smokers adequately from SHS exposure.

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Smoking ban citations are few and far between in St. Louis area

BY MARGARET GILLERMAN mgillerman@post-dispatch.com > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 12:10 am | Comments (140 as of February 15, 2012, 6:53 pm)

Joe Clark’s Bar in Fenton gets rave reviews on the Internet for its food and friendliness, drawing 4½ of 5 stars on Yahoo.
         But one negative was noted in a review on urbanspoon by a customer, who wrote: “Service was great but the secondhand smoke made my daughter sick!”
         That feature no doubt figured in Joe Clark’s being the first and only establishment to be cited for violating St. Louis County’s smoking ordinance.
         The county’s Indoor Clean Air ordinance has been in effect for more than 13 months, and so far about 250 violations have been called in to the county Health Department.
         Its policy has been to work with violators to get them to comply.
         Joe Clark’s did not, the county says, and is facing a $100 fine.
         Other St. Louis County communities such as Kirkwood, Brentwood, Clayton and Creve Coeur that have prohibited indoor smoking in public places over the last two years have reported few complaints and almost no citations. An exception was Clayton’s well-publicized ticketing of the Ritz-Carlton over its cigar ball in a hotel ballroom. The Ritz paid a $300 fine and now restricts smoking to its cigar club room and some hotel rooms, which have exemptions.
         The city of St. Louis enacted its smoking ban at the same time as the county’s, Jan. 2, 2011.
         Since then, the city has sent 19 violation letters to businesses, out of 703 businesses selling liquor by the drink.
         The Missouri Athletic Club, the venerable athletic, dining and social club downtown, was first to be cited, more than a year ago. The $100 fine has not been paid, and the case has yet to be heard in municipal court. It’s set to be heard May 9.
         “We have retained counsel to help us interpret the ordinance, which is pretty complex,” said Tom Albus, president of the MAC.
         Albus, who is an assistant U.S. attorney specializing in white-collar crime, added: “We obviously intend to abide by the law and will abide by any ruling that the court ultimately makes.”
         City officials said a year ago that MAC administrators had told inspectors that the MAC was a private club and therefore exempt. But the city ordinance exempts private clubs only if they have no employees.
         Warren Nichols, a spokesman for the city Health Department, said that 16 of the 19 violation letters that went out were due to complaints from the public and three resulted from routine inspections.
         Of the 19 violations, most businesses paid their fines. Three cases, including the MAC’s, were referred to court for nonpayment. Two were dismissed.
         Craig LeFebvre, spokesman for the County Health Department, said the county has tried to work with businesses to achieve voluntary compliance.
         “During this first year of enforcement, our interest first and foremost was in helping businesses comply,” LeFebvre said.
         He added: “In some cases, it was just employee confusion about the new law — for example, how many feet from an entrance is smoking prohibited, and so forth.”
         Joe Clark’s will have to pay a fine of $100 for its first offense. The bar had been asked to stop smokers from smoking indoors but continued to allow them to light up, LeFebvre said.
         “We would not have issued a citation if there had not been a continuing violation,” LeFebvre said.
         Joe Clark’s declined to comment on the citation.
         Another violation there within a year would trigger a $200 fine, and subsequent violations within a year would carry $500 fines.

FEW COMPLAINTS

         In Kirkwood, Detective David Smith said police have received only one complaint about compliance since the city’s ban went into effect in January 2010.
         The complaint was of “constant smoking” at a restaurant on South Kirkwood Road. Police investigated, and found no smoking, Smith said.
         Brentwood, which has a year-old ban, has received two complaints, said City Administrator Bola Akande. In both cases, the smoking was occurring outside of restaurants.
         Creve Coeur, whose ban began Jan. 2, 2011, has resolved numerous complaints, said Jaysen Christensen, assistant to the city administrator. Two complaints were on a smoke-free business campus. Warnings were given, and meetings were held with the company’s smoking cessation committee.
         In St. Charles County, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon have adopted smoking bans.
         Lake Saint Louis, where a ban took effect Oct. 1, 2010, has received a complaint about a pub and others at the Lake Saint Louis National Equestrian Center, said City Administrator Paul Markworth. All were resolved through discussions. O’Fallon’s ban went into effect June 16. City spokesman Tom Drabelle said compliance had been “essentially 100 percent.”
         Ballwin and Arnold have had smoking bans for several years.
         Complaints have been rare.
         Ballwin City Clerk Marie Clark said that people “pretty much know this is the way it is.” The ban there took effect in 2006. Arnold enacted its ban in 2004.

2 responses to “2012-02-15 P-D: “Smoking ban citations are few and far between in St. Louis area”

  1. “He added: “… it was just employee confusion about the new law — for example, how many feet from an entrance is smoking prohibited, and so forth.”

    Interesting. Waitfolks at bars/restaurants are now required by law to go out into the streets enforce laws? It depends on how the laws are written of course, but do they have to stop people who are smoking pot or littering? If they don’t, are they legally liable?

    Or is drafting them as Citizen Vigilantes unique to the ban law?

    Obviously I’m phrasing this to favor my point, but the question is a serious one dealing with the enforced service of civilians without training, pay, insurance, or proper means of protection when dealing with lawbreakers. We’ve seen a number of stories dealing with serious attacks in smoking ban altercations and even a few deaths. If I had a 17 year old daughter waitressing someplace I think I would be rather upset if she got killed because she was forced to play the role of a cop under criminal penalties.

    – MJM

  2. The handwriting is on the wall, smoking is objectionable and unhealthy to nonsmokers who have to inhale second hand smoke if they patronize establishments that permit this unwholesome practice. That is why ordinances have been passed barring this behavior. The public has accepted that it is not a tolerated practice. The remaining diehards will have to change or risk being penalized if they choose to subject their fellow citizens to their foul second hand smoke.

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