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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:
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 email@example.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.
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.