Monthly Archives: February 2013

2013-02-13 P-D: “State bill would protect smoking at Lemay and Maryland Heights casinos”

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It would be nice if state Representatives were informed by other than casino interests when charging off with legislation to protect casinos from phantom concerns about loss of revenue should they go smoke-free.

This was addressed in a peer-reviewed study of which I was fortunate be last coauthor of six, published in the peer-reviewed international journal, Tobacco Control, on June 14, 2011, titled:

Exempting casinos from the Smoke-free Illinois Act will not bring patrons back: they never left

The primary author was Dr. Jenine K. Harris at the George Warren School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis.

I posted a blog with a long introduction about it, after sending it to David Nicklaus at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who featured it in an article he wrote, published on June 28, 2011:

Smoking ban didn’t hurt Illinois casinos, study says.

Rep. Bill Otto, D-St. Charles, the sponsor of this ill-conceived bill, is quoted below as saying:

“These counties will fall one at a time,” Otto said. “It will really be detrimental to whichever casino goes nonsmoking first. This will just kill them.”

The full story appears below, and is depressing in terms of the comments of other area legislators, and their apparent lack of knowledge on the subject.

State bill would protect smoking at Lemay and Maryland Heights casinos
9 hours ago • By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-723318

An effort is under way in the Missouri Legislature to keep local governments from imposing tougher smoking restrictions for casinos than what their competitors face.
The bill would prohibit local smoking bans at casinos if smoking is still allowed at a competing casino within 75 miles. It is sponsored by Rep. Bill Otto, D-St. Charles, whose district includes the Hollywood and Ameristar casinos.
         The measure would bar the St. Louis County Council from ending the exemptions from the county’s smoking ban for Hollywood in Maryland Heights and River City Casino in Lemay. The council has been considering in recent weeks removing those and most other exemptions.
         Hollywood, formerly known as Harrah’s, is just across the Missouri River from Ameristar in St. Charles, where there is no smoking ban.
         The state proposal also would prevent St. Charles County from enacting a smoking ban for Ameristar unless one was already in place at Hollywood and other St. Louis-area casinos.
         Otto says he wants to keep one area casino from gaining a temporary advantage over another.
         Eventually, he said, he expects that all local communities in the St. Louis area will enact bans on smoking in casinos, bars and other public places with few exemptions, although he opposes such restrictions on businesses.
         “These counties will fall one at a time,” Otto said. “It will really be detrimental to whichever casino goes nonsmoking first. This will just kill them.”
         Otto said his bill would allow cities or a county “to do whatever they want fully understanding they won’t affect the casinos immediately.”
         Lobbyists for Ameristar and Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood, said they supported Otto’s measure but did not ask him to sponsor it. Otto has not received any campaign contributions from casinos or their executives, according to the most recent reports.
         “It places us all on a level playing field,” said Troy Stremming, an Ameristar executive.
         Pat Lindsey, executive director of the Tobacco-Free St. Louis Coalition, opposes the bill and other so-called “trigger” measures tying action on smoking in one jurisdiction to that in another.
         “It just kind of holds everything back,” she said. “We just need to get rid of the smoke.”
         Also opposed is Misty Snodgrass, who lobbies for the Cancer Action Network, an affiliate of the American Cancer Society.
         “Local communities should be able to pass whatever strong ordinance they want to pass,” she said.
         St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara, who is sponsoring the pending proposal to eliminate most exemptions to the county smoking ban, said he needed to review Otto’s bill before taking a position on it.
         “If it’s a fairness bill to keep everyone on the same page, I could live with that,” said O’Mara, D-Florissant.
         At the St. Charles County Council, the main advocate of unsuccessful smoking ban legislation last year — Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul — said he didn’t object to Otto’s goal. However, he said the mileage radius should be reduced, perhaps to 25 miles.
         St. Charles County has no countywide ban, but its council has considered several versions in recent years and is likely to do so again.
         Cronin noted that at one point, he sponsored a smoking ban bill with an exemption for Ameristar that would expire when other casinos on the Missouri side of the metro area went smoke-free.
         A statewide smoking ban in Illinois already covers Metro East casinos.
         Cronin also has fought with Ameristar over another version.
         That proposal would have let voters decide separately on a smoking ban and exempting places where all customers and workers are over 21, such as casinos and bars.
         The council voted last year to put that on the November ballot, but the county elections director removed it because of technical errors.
         Cronin said he planned to try again at the next countywide election but was still working on details of the legislation. The earliest it would likely be on the ballot is August 2014.
         Meanwhile, two other area lawmakers — Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur — recently filed bills seeking a statewide smoking ban. Similar measures have gone nowhere in past sessions.
         Otto’s state bill also would affect the Lumière Place casino in St. Louis. Officials with Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns both the Lumière and River City facilities and has announced plans to buy Ameristar, could not be reached for comment.
         The state proposal also would apply to competing casinos in the Kansas City area.
         Lumière’s exemption from St. Louis’ smoking ban already is tied by law to its competitors. The city’s smoking ordinance says the Lumière exemption would be phased out once smoking bans are imposed on casinos in St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
         Otto, as a freshman Democrat in the heavily Republican House, typically would have an uphill climb getting a bill passed in his first year in Jefferson City.
         To build support, he’s lined up as co-sponsors House members from several other districts around the state that also have casinos. In all, he has 11 co-sponsors, seven Republicans and four Democrats.
         Stremming, the Ameristar lobbyist, said, “I’m hopeful a good idea like this can get some momentum.”

2013-02-12 P-D OpEd: “Time to go smoke-free everywhere in Missouri’s Capitol”

I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Stan Cowan on numerous occasions over the years, including an indoor air quality test of St. Louis bars and restaurants in 2010 in collaboration with the Center for Tobacco Policy Research. I’m delighted to see his OpEd published in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It focuses on one of MoGASP’s primary campaigns in the past: seeking a totally smoke-free Missouri State Capitol. Despite efforts spanning many years, that goal has proved elusive as some of those responsible have essentially thumbed their noses at federal law and the Americans with Disabilities Act, with which they are not in compliance by continuing to allow smoking, even if nominally confined to private offices.

Only by keeping the pressure on will the People’s House finally come into conformance with every other state office building, which is already smoke-free.

Stan Cowan

Stan Cowan

Time to go smoke-free everywhere in Missouri’s Capitol
Responsible choice * Majority caucus should pick a policy that protects people from harm.

While employees and visitors in other governmental buildings are afforded a workplace free from secondhand smoke toxins, the same is not true for our state capitol building.
         The Missouri House of Representatives rejected an amendment for all areas of the House to be smokefree and instead opted for each party’s caucus to determine office smoking policies for their members. The Minority Caucus adopted a smokefree policy; now it’s time for the Majority Caucus to act responsibly.
         Recently the Majority Caucus announced they are considering a policy to let lawmakers continue smoking in their offices while encouraging them to be “conscientious” and “respectful.” They suggested posting signs on doors; smokers providing equipment to mitigate smoke leaving their offices; smoking only between 6 p.m. and midnight; and leaving a window open.
         It seems a small, but influential number of representatives that insist upon smoking in their offices is preventing adoption of a smokefree policy, the only way that is truly “conscientious” and “respectful” of fellow legislators, staff and visitors.
         Flaws in the caucus’ suggestions defy the laws of physics.

         – A sign posted on a door does not keep smoke from infiltrating into neighboring offices or from entering the ventilation system to be distributed elsewhere in the building.
– Using equipment to “mitigate smoke emanting from their offices” is not a viable solution. The American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers concluded no air cleaning or filtration systems can be relied upon to adequately remove the toxins of secondhand smoke from the air. They stated the best solution is to not allow smoking in indoor environments.
– Smoking only between 6 p.m. and midnight still means the non-smokers in the building during those hours will continue to be exposed to this known cause for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
– Leaving a window open, especially during cold weather, is wasteful of expensive energy and simply callous stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

         If legislators that smoke truly want to be conscientious and respectful, they will support a smokefree office policy and stop posing a threat to the health of others. There are a number of smokeless options available that can satisfy their nicotine cravings during the times they’re indoors. Better yet, quitting tobacco would be conscientious and respectful to their own health.
The Majority Caucus has an opportunity to do what is right and be praised for it. Also important, they will show the busloads of school children that visit the Capitol each year they are good role models by no longer permitting smoking in the Capitol, the people’s building.
         Polite and courteous encouragement may be sent to your state representative and to Rep. John Diehl, chair of the Majority Caucus, at John.Diehl@house.missouri.gov

Stan Cowan has dedicated over 35 years toward protecting and advancing pubic health in Missouri. He was active in the citizens coalition that led to a voter-approved ordinance for smoke-free workplaces in Jefferson City.

2013-02-07 P-D: “Bar owners weigh in on move to eliminate smoking ban exemptions in St. Louis County”

It’s interesting how opponents of smoke-free air, which is first and foremost about health and wellness, always manage to cloud the issue by injecting totally irrelevant arguments. Why bring in “economics,” unless it would be very expensive to enforce and the law would be ineffective?

Smoke-free air laws are typically among the most self-enforcing of laws due to the large number of nonsmokers in the population now: roughly 80% of adults don’t smoke in Missouri.

If you’re going to talk about freedom, fairness and personal responsibility, as this article does, that’s fine.

* It should be freedom from smoke pollution.

*Fairness, so that anyone, smoker and nonsmoker, can work in or enter the premises without having to breathe smoke-polluted air.

*And personal responsibility: smokers can refrain from smoking while in a smoke-free environment, or find an alternative for satisfying their nicotine craving. It’s the norm in so many places now: this is NOT rocket science!

It’s disappointing to hear Councilman O’Mara being swayed by stories from bar owners claiming to predict their future peril if they go smoke-free. No one’s health and welfare should be put at risk by such arguments.

Bar owners weigh in on move to eliminate smoking ban exemptions in St. Louis County
By Paul Hampel phampel@post-dispatch.com 314-727-623426

CLAYTON • Bar owners talked about freedom, fairness and personal responsibility as they spoke out Wednesday about a proposal before the St. Louis County Council to eliminate almost all exemptions to the countywide smoking ban.
         Most who spoke hold such exemptions; a few others do not.
         Both sides argued that the matter boiled down to economics.
         “If you remove the exemptions, you’re going to put people out of business,” said Jim Schmitt, who owns Schmitt’s Bar & Grill in Overland.
         Tim Tucker, whose Locker Room bar in Florissant does not have an exemption, said, “Exemptions have hurt my business. It’s not fair that one bar can do something that my bar cannot.”
         The owners attended the meeting at the invitation of County Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, who introduced a bill last month to remove the exemptions. Establishments are eligible for exemptions if food sales total less than 25 percent of the annual total sales of food and beverage. The ordinance also exempted gambling floors at casinos.
         After the meeting, O’Mara said that some owners had made an impression on him.
         “I am concerned for these little bar owners. I wonder if there isn’t an option for them (to keep exemptions) based on square footage, no food (served) or if they only let in people over 21.”
         O’Mara said he wanted to create a level playing field for all business owners.
         Exemptions are currently held by 135 establishments and the county’s two gambling venues, River City Casino and Hollywood Casino St. Louis.
         In its current form, the bill leaves in place exemptions for private residences; private clubs; performers on stage in theatrical productions; nursing homes and similar institutions; retail tobacco businesses; and permanently designated smoking rooms in hotels.
         Some owners agreed with the idea of a level playing field — though perhaps not in the way O’Mara intended it.
         “Remove the ban completely for all drinking establishments,” Carol Fallert, owner of the Brew House in Maryland Heights, suggested to O’Mara.
         Derek Deaver, who owns Deaver’s Restaurant in Florissant and Three Kings Public House in the Delmar Loop, advised, “Either allow smoking everywhere or nowhere.”
         Craig Robinson, vice president of finance at Hollywood Casino (formerly Harrah’s) in Maryland Heights, asserted that eliminating exemptions would hurt the bottom line by encouraging smokers to leave the casino floor to puff outside or to take their business elsewhere.
         “Ameristar is less than a mile away as the crow flies,” Robinson said, referring to the nearby casino in St. Charles where smoking is allowed.
         Robinson said O’Mara’s plan would cut his casino’s revenue by 20 percent. In turn, he said, that would lead to tax revenue cuts of $9.7 million to the Pattonville School District and $3.2 million to the city of Maryland Heights.
         However, Don Hart, who owns Maryland Yards bar in Maryland Heights, asked that O’Mara not give special treatment to the casinos.
         “If you’re going to take (exemptions) away from the 135 bars, take it away from the boats,” Hart said.
         O’Mara said he would hold additional hearings for the general public before moving forward with the bill.

2013-02-05 P-D Letters: ‘Over 21’ exemption would reverse progress on smoke-free workplaces

Smoke-free air opponent, Bill Hannegan, whose blog KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE extols indoor air pollution if it’s from tobacco smoke, has been fighting a losing battle for years. His current untenable position is promoting an “Over 21” exemption so that he can smoke in his favorite bars. His recent letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reprinted below, urges St. Louis County Council to support his argument and relax restrictions at a time when they’re considering tightening them.

My letter in response is fortuitously published in today’s newspaper, just in time for a Perfection vote this evening on a smoke-free air bill sponsored by County Councilman Mike O’Mara. Mr. O’Mara has gone on record as saying he wants to remove existing unfair exemptions, such as smoking in small bars and the gaming area of casinos so I hope that’s what this bill does.

Both letters are reproduced below, starting with Mr. Hannegan’s:

Mr. Bill Hannegan being interviewed outside council chamber

Mr. Bill Hannegan being interviewed outside St. Louis County Council chamber in July 2009

County Council should consider ‘over 21’ rule on smoking ban
Published January 31, 2013

St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara has announced that the current exemption system in the St. Louis County smoking ban is hurting some establishments that serve too much food and too little alcohol to qualify for an exemption. O’Mara wants to redo the smoking ban to make it more fair to all establishments and less economically harmful.
         I would like to point out that establishments currently exempted from the St. Louis County smoking ban can, and do, allow minors to enter their smoking areas. The County Council could both tighten the current ban, and make it more fair, by substituting an “over 21” rule for the current food vs. alcohol sales exemption criterion. The rule would be simple: When an establishment allows smoking, it must exclude minors. Minors thus would no longer be exposed to smoking in St. Louis County establishments. Nor would a special exemption for bars and casinos any longer be needed. The playing field would then be level. Every establishment of every type would have a choice: Allow smoking or allow minors. Pick one. What could be more simple, commonsensical and fair?
         Bar owners have consistently told the council that an “over 21” rule would be a more reasonable exemption criterion than the food percentage requirement and that such a rule would be far less harmful to county businesses. O’Mara and the rest of the council could largely resolve the smoking ban issue in St. Louis County if they finally heed their advice.

Bill Hannegan  •  St. Louis

Jaco Pion ID

Martin Pion debating Bill Hannegan on Fox News
The Charles Jaco Report in October 2009

‘Over 21’ exemption would reverse progress on smoke-free workplaces
Published February 5, 2013

I’d like to respond to Bill Hannegan’s Jan. 31 letter urging an “over 21” exemption from smoke-free air laws for establishments serving alcohol. Mr. Hannegan has been pushing this proposal for years so that he can smoke in his favorite venues, but it’s totally illogical.
         When I first got a job transfer to the U.S. from Britain in 1977, I found myself cooped up in a windowless two-person office with a colleague and Ph.D. who smoked Camel cigarettes incessantly, the nearest thing to torture I’ve ever endured.
         When I got a job in St. Louis in 1980, the open office situation wasn’t much better. The norm was smoking allowed everywhere, except the computer room to protect the mainframe computers.
         It’s taken literally decades to finally achieve a situation where almost all workplaces in metro St. Louis are smoke-free. The most glaring exceptions are for standalone bars and casino gaming areas, which St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara has indicated he wants to remove.
         If we accept Mr. Hannegan’s logic, then we should extend his exemption to every adult workplace. I trust we have more sense than to go back to the smoky Stone Ages.

Martin Pion  •  Ferguson

2013-01-24 P-D: “Hannegan rallies pro-smokers in St. Louis County”

I didn’t spot this January 24th blog post by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Paul Hampel, until after reading a Letter to the Editor from Bill Hannegan, published last Thursday. Mr. Hampel’s post elicited 28 comments from both pro-smoking and smoke-free air supporters, which you’ll find here: Comments.

Bill Hannegan’s letter in the January 31, 2013, St.Louis Post-Dispatch once again urges St. Louis County Council to make an ‘over 21’ rule to exempt bars from smoke-free air laws. This is in response to County Councilman Mike O’Mara’s recently-announced proposal to eliminate existing loopholes in the law, which currently allows selected bars an exemption from St. Louis County’s smoke-free air law.

This has become Bill’s theme following enactment of the current pretty comprehensive laws in both St. Louis City and County that provide for smoke-free air in most places of employment, including restaurants. The biggest exemptions are for small bars and the casino gaming areas.

MoGASP supports eliminating them but Bill wants to move in the other direction for no good reason that I can perceive, his main argument being based on fallacious “Private property rights.” Below I’ve reproduced the article and I’ll follow up later with Bill’s published letter.

Paul Hampel Political Fix 503f89dc3a28b

                                    
Hannegan rallies pro-smokers in St. Louis County
January 24, 2013 11:52 am • By Paul Hampel phampel@post-dispatch.com 314-727-6234

Bill Hannegan with beer and unopened pack of cigarettes.

Bill Hannegan with beer and pack of cigarettes but note that he’s not smoking and there’s no ashtray. Must be one of those darned healthy smoke-free air bars!
         Photo by Sid Hastings for the Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Smokers’ rights advocate Bill Hannegan has sent letters to owners of all 135 establishments in the county that hold exemptions to the countywide smoking ban, urging them to protest a proposal that would remove almost all exemptions to the ban.
         Last week, County Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, introduced a bill to make the ban more strict.
         O’Mara said his proposal was designed to “level the playing field” for businesses that don’t have the exemptions.
         After introducing the bill, O’Mara referred it to committee for study.
         Hannegan, of St. Louis, is the director of Keep St. Louis Free and perhaps the staunchest defender of smoking rights in the region.
         His letter states, in part: “St. Louis County bar owner, if you, your patrons and your staff protest the theft of your exemption, the chances are very good that Councilman O’Mara will restore your bar’s exemptions to his ordinance and the Council will vote down any law that does not exempt your establishment.”