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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.