2013-07-10 P-D: “City-imposed smoking ban appears dead in St. Charles”

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This action by Mayor Sally Faith and her St. Charles council colleagues to head off meaningful smoke-free air legislation in their city is not entirely surprising. Once they had concluded the danger of a county smoke-free air law passing had receded their fig leaf of concern disappeared, and they felt free to introduce a meaningless signage-only law.

By the time I posted a comment following the on-line St. Louis Post-Dispatch story Bill Hannegan had already posted 12 hours earlier, pushing his so-called “over 21” exemption.

I found a comment by Mike McCluskey, describing this as “A common sense approach,” to be odd. He wrote: “Don’t complain if your clothes smell like smoke and if you’re robbed in St. Louis you should be charged with aiding and abetting for not having the same equal amount of common sense. In other words…No one forced you to do either.”

My comment below appeared immediately after the above:

Martin Pion
This sham law, introduced by Mayor Sally Faith of St. Charles City with council approval, which simply requires a business to post a smoking or no-smoking sign, is no surprise.
The only reason the mayor addressed this issue in the first place was concern over County Councilman Joe Cronin’s efforts to pass a county-wide smoke-free air law that would have included the Ameristar Casino.
Mayor Faith is obsessed with an unfounded concern that such a law would negatively impact the substantial revenue the casino generates for the city. That was the driving force behind her efforts to enact the city’s own law: to try and preempt county council action. Her efforts are misguided, but also show again how backward St. Charles county, and especially St. Charles City is, on the issue of public health and secondhand smoke. (See 2013-05-24 P-D OpEd: “St. Charles city and county need smoke-free air” at http://tinyurl.com/nonp35p.)

Below is the story by reporter Mark Schlinkmann:

City-imposed smoking ban appears dead in St. Charles
By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7233 Comments

ST. CHARLES • City leaders here have backed off efforts to pass a limited smoking ban and now want to only require businesses to post signs saying whether they allow customers to light up.

Mayor Sally Faith

Mayor Sally Faith

Council President Dave Beckering

Council President Dave Beckering

         Mayor Sally Faith and Council President Dave Beckering announced plans for the sign ordinance at a City Council meeting Tuesday night.
         None of the seven other council members attending objected, although no vote was taken. Two were absent.
         Faith, Beckering and others previously had endorsed a city smoking ban exempting the Ameristar Casino, which channels millions of dollars in tax revenue each year to her city.
         Exemptions for bars, veterans halls and bowling alleys also had been under consideration.
         Any city ban, they had said, would have been aimed at blunting efforts of the St. Charles County Council to impose a countywide prohibition that might cover Ameristar.
         Now, Beckering said in an interview, he has reason to believe the county body won’t try to do that again.
         “I believe if they do anything relative to a smoking ban, they’ll do something to make sure they don’t put the casino at a disadvantage,” he said.
         That’s a reference to Ameristar’s long-held argument that a ban on smoking at its St. Charles casino would result in a significant loss of business to the Hollywood Casino in nearby Maryland Heights if a ban wasn’t also imposed there. Casinos are exempt from St. Louis County’s smoking ban.
         Faith and Beckering also noted the seven-person County Council has three new members since it took up the smoking issue last year.
         A draft of the sign bill submitted by Faith would apply to all public places, including retail businesses and places of employment. “People need to know when they go into a place whether there is smoking or no smoking,” Faith said.
         The council held three public hearings on the smoking ban idea in May.
         Of 102 people who either spoke at the hearings or contacted the council by email, Beckering said, 51 opposed a total smoking ban, 44 supported a total ban and two wanted a ban with exemptions. Five others had other positions.
         “Certainly we had very passionate people on both sides,” Beckering said. However, he said, “after all this discussion, we really don’t have a consensus here.” The County Council last summer decided to put before voters in November a two-proposition countywide package but it was blocked by an election official and a circuit judge.
         Under that plan, voters would have first been asked whether to ban smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places.
         A second ballot question was on exempting places restricting customers and employees to people 21 and older, including the casino and bars.
         The only smoking bans now in the county are in O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis. They are among the strictest in the metro area, with no exemptions for bars.

4 responses to “2013-07-10 P-D: “City-imposed smoking ban appears dead in St. Charles”

  1. MoGASP, my thoughts actually come from your Op-Ed in the last entry citing Jenine Harris’s work on casino admissions as belying the councilors’ worries about losses.

    Can you explain why J Harris examined casino ADMISSIONS rather than casino REVENUES? Casinos could easily double their admissions under her simply by closing down several times a day and shooing all their customers outside, then re-opening and admitting them all again. Their admission numbers would skyrocket.

    It’s like requiring restaurants to write separate checks for customers for their main meals and deserts. At the end of the year you could show a great increase in the number of paid customers as counted by receipts. It would show NOTHING about the profits/losses of those restaurants though.

    It’s my belief, and you’re welcome to show why I’m wrong on this, that the choice to examine ADMISSIONS rather than REVENUE was simply driven by a desire to show, falsely, that bans don’t hurt casinos. Who funded Harris btw?

    – MJM

    mogasp response: I don’t recall the rationale for Dr. Harris’s approach, but I have no reason to question it. I seem to recall that getting good comparable data for the different states she studied was a challenge to be overcome.
    The group at Wash. U. proposing this study were unable to get funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health or similar sources, so I managed to obtain a small grant to pay for Dr. Harris to do this in her spare time. I made it clear from the start that I wanted good research, no matter the result, and I personally expected it to confirm the accepted wisdom that it was the IL Smoke-free Air Act which was directly responsible for loss of casino revenues. The result was a surprise to me, frankly.

  2. Ahh! MoGASP, I’d actually forgotten your connection with the study. I’m guessing that the grant was not one of those multi-tens-or-hundreds-of-thousands type grants then. With those there’s always a strong incentive for researchers to finagle their research to please the funders.

    And before leaping to their defense, consider: do you believe researchers used to finagle for PM and RJR? I’m guessing you DO believe that. Now think about how much MORE likely it is that they’re finagling today? With PM they had no moral shield to hide their conscience behind…they were just in for the money. But *TODAY’S* antismoking researchers can chase the MONEY, the GLORY, and the sparkling sheen of GOODNESS in helping stamp out what they believe is harmful…all at the same time. Whatever fraud etc may have existed with BigT in the past is probably at least doubled or trebled in today’s research world in this area.

    Why did you fund research you expected would show bans hurt the casinos though?

    😕
    MJM

    mogasp response: From what I’ve read, the tobacco industry would suppress research results, or require changes to them to make them more acceptable to tobacco industry orthodoxy before allowing their submission for publication.
    With regard to this research led by Dr. Harris, no peer-reviewed published data existed and that was what was needed, in my view, even though I couldn’t foresee how it would turn out, and I anticipated that some smokers would stop patronizing casinos in Illinois after they went smoke-free. The only question for me was could that loss in smoking patrons be made up by nonsmokers, perhaps, or would we learn something else about this subject.

  3. Thanks for the response MoGASP! 🙂

    Regarding this: “(BigT) would suppress research results, or require changes to them to make them more acceptable to tobacco industry orthodoxy before allowing their submission for publication.”

    And you don’t think that goes on in the world of antismoking research? Remember the causative moment of Mike Siegel’s split with Glantz et al. Also, think about the phrasing of the 1998 WHO Boffetta abstract where the ONLY significant finding of the research was passed off as showing “no association” because its finding was so unacceptable to tobacco control. There are numerous examples of studies that clearly seem deliberately designed or bent in order to please antismoking paymasters out there, and, as noted, with antismoking research, the researchers believe they have God on their side as well as Mammon pushing them on. Remember that “The Greedy” isn’t the only category at the beginning of Brains.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: I am aware some valid criticisms exist of the tobacco control movement, as exemplified by Dr. Mike Siegel’s blog, The Rest of the Story. That’s an area that I leave to him because I feel he’s better informed on the subject, and on the occasions I’ve read his blog I generally (but not always) agree with him.

  4. I just don’t see any conflict between research showing admissions were the same, and research by the Fed reserve, and the MO gaming Commission, and the IL gaming Commission finding the IL ban cut revenues. It’s possible both happened and st. charles should be concerned

    mogasp response: The critical point you make which I would dispute is that the “IL ban cut revenues.” The research DOESN’T support that contention, contrary to popular belief before this study was undertaken.

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