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.
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.