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Following is the meat of this bill:
191.777. Nothing in sections [191.775 and] 191.765 to 191.776 shall prohibit local political subdivisions or local boards of education from enacting more stringent ordinances or rules; except that:
(1) No local political subdivision shall restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public places; and
(2) Any public place which derives at least sixty percent of its retail sales from alcohol, tobacco, or entertainment shall be exempt from any local ordinances or rules relating to smoking in public places.
The really objectionable text is (2) above, which I’ve highlighted and which is the part that rolls back significant portions of existing smoke-free air laws and limits any future such laws.
In the print version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this article is titled “Bill would lessen state smoking bans. Many bars, bowling alleys and casinos would be exempt under measure from GOP lawmaker.” I found the on-line headline more informative, personally. Either way, it would be a major attack on efforts by many individuals and organizations over the years to promote smoke-free air and the painstaking progress that has been made in what I call the “Smoke-Me State.”
After all, even with all that progress, there are still important holes in existing laws, for example the exemption for the gaming floors in casinos and some bars in both St. Louis City and County ordinances. And numerous cities and counties, such as St. Charles, have implemented no protection.
HB 2103 was introduced by two Republican House members, one of whom (Rep. Melissa Leach) wants to preempt local smokefree workplace laws (to allow smoking in bars and many other public places), and the other (Rep. Kathie Conway) who quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes.
While laws relating to e-cigarettes may be debatable, those providing for smoke-free air in public places and the workplace are not.
This is an ill-informed assault by state legislators on public health and welfare, and would turn back the clock on the major public health gains made over the years affecting millions of employees and those wanting to lead a life free of secondhand smoke. This absolutely must not pass out of committee or be attached as an amendment to another bill.
If it should somehow reach Governor Jay Nixon’s desk there should be no hesitation in him vetoing it.
BY MARGARET GILLERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 12:05 am
A Springfield, Mo., legislator is proposing to prohibit Missouri cities and counties from banning smoking in establishments where at least 60 percent of retail sales come from alcohol, tobacco or entertainment.
The legislation, if passed, would mean that many more bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls, billiard parlors and movie theaters, among other businesses, could be exempted from smoke-free ordinances. Casinos would fall into that category.
The bill will be heard today by the House Small Business Committee.
The bill would need to win committee approval before it could be debated by the full House. With less than three weeks left in the session, it would be hard for a bill to make it through the legislative process unless it were added as an amendment to another bill that is already in the pipeline.
As to whether she expects it to pass this session, Leach said: “I believe in miracles.”
Leach said her purpose was to give business owners more of a say in how to run their establishments.
Under the bill, she said, ‘smoking would be left up to the business owner, not the local government.”
Voters in Springfield passed a comprehensive smoking ban last year. A move to repeal it is on the June ballot.
Leach said that some businesses had been forced to close since the ban was enacted.
“We have a couple bars just hanging on,” she said. “It’s a job killer.”
Leach’s bill would also prohibit bans on electronic cigarettes.
Leach said she was not sure what impact her bill would have on existing ordinances. She said that issue was being researched.
“I don’t think it’s automatic,” she said.
However, opponents said the bill’s wording is clear.
Charley Gatton, an advocate of smoking bans, said such a law would harm anti-smoking efforts throughout Missouri.
“This will be a major setback to the employees and patrons of hundreds of businesses,” Gatton said.
Richard Sheets, deputy director and lobbyist for the Missouri Municipal League, said the bill as worded would put limits on existing bans approved by councils or voters themselves.
“It’s a local control issue,” said Sheets, who will speak against the bill at the hearing. “The voters and citizens of a community should decide to what extent their regulation should be. If they want it more stringent, or less, it’s their choice.”
Smoking bans went into effect in January 2011 in St. Louis and St. Louis County. Exemptions are allowed for establishments in which food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue.
A St. Louis County health department spokesman said Tuesday it appeared that Leach’s bill would increase the number of establishments in the county that would be able to allow smoking.
Co-sponsor of the bill is Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County.
“What it does is give restaurant and bar owners a little more control over their property and businesses,” Conway said. “It’s not whether smoking is bad for you. We know it’s a bad thing.”
Leach’s bill is HB 2103