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

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

  1. “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.”

    Not quite, Martin. The Smoky Stone Ages of the 50s/60s allowed teachers to smoke in kindergartens and grammar schools, librarians to smoke in libraries, nurses to smoke at the nurses’ stations in hospitals, teachers to smoke while teaching at colleges, butchers to smoke while cutting your meat in the butcher shop, barbers to smoke while cutting your child’s hair, and your dentist to smoke while waiting for the Novocaine to kick in.

    Mr. H. is clearly **NOT** suggesting that: you are misrepresenting his position, which is a form of lying, which in itself, is the basic form of most argument that I believe most smoking bans are based on. See http://TinyURL.com/SmokingBanLies

    20% of adults smoke. Over 21 will allow smoking in less than 10% of workplaces.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    mogasp comment: I wasn’t aware that I was “lying” but if you say so, I must be!

  2. Well, actually you were just using some artistic license regarding a very nice (and very well done) “turn of phrase” to wrap up your letter, so I wouldn’t say you were deliberately lying MoGASP. I’m sure that if you look over some of my own writings I’ve probably fallen into the same pit at times in an effort to make a point memorable. 🙂

    My larger point about general ban supporters lying remains however, as I point out in “The Lies…” link.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: Thanks for clarifying!

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