2016-01-15 P-D: “City smoking ban remains in force, St. Louis judge rules”

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For Better or For Worse, by Lynn Johnston, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01.19.2016

Ellen Patterson’s brother, Phil, above, relapsed back to his nicotine addiction after encountering some personal pressure.

But Trophy Room owner Herbert Krischke couldn’t face going smoke-free at all, despite the St. Louis City bar exemption expiring on Jan. 1st, 2016, following a 5-year delay.  Instead, as it was about to go into effect,  Mr. Krischke sought an injunction to prevent it from happening. The aim was to permanently postpone the day of reckoning, as reported by Christine Byers in the Post-Dispatch story on Wednesday, December 30th, headlined St. Louis bar wins delay in fight against city smoking ban.

Part of the argument his attorney used is that it targets St. Louis bars while giving St. Louis casinos, such as Lumière Place, an exemption, and forced it to “unfairly compete with other smoking bars in nearby St. Louis County, where exemptions remain in place.”

However, when the judge took up the case he ruled against the Trophy Room for reasons given in the story reproduced below.

I have some sympathy for those who argue against fundamentally unfair exemptions for some and not others. Of course, that’s a problem that’s been dogging how the issue of smoke-free air was legislated from the beginning, because smoking for literally decades was treated almost as a civil right that can’t be restricted. And when smoke-free air ordinances at last became more commonplace, exemptions were sought for restaurants or other venues, usually on specious grounds like being “private businesses,” which somehow meant that on this one issue they were untouchable.

Turning to St. Louis County, it should take the next step and remove exemptions for small bars and taverns. County Executive Steve Stenger, who originally insisted on these exemptions in exchange for his support when he was still a county councilman, should take the lead now. Ideally, he and Mayor Slay should work together on really leveling the playing field, for the benefit of patrons and employees, by making all local casinos smoke-free. It’s the right thing to do and won’t lead to a loss of revenue, as opponents claim.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch story is reproduced below, generating 38 comments:

City smoking ban remains in force, St. Louis judge rules

January 15, 2016 5:00 pm  • 

ST. LOUIS  •  A circuit judge denied a St. Louis bar’s request to temporarily block the city from enforcing its smoking ban.
St. Louis Circuit Judge David L. Dowd ordered on Friday that the Trophy Room bar did not show sufficient evidence of immediate irreparable harm.
“The balance between the harm to petitioners and injury to others does not weigh in favor of granting a preliminary injunction,” Dowd wrote. “Finally, the public interest would not be furthered by granting a preliminary injunction in this matter.”
The Trophy Room had won a ten day reprieve in order to argue its case. Now, the bar was go non-smoking.
The bar, at 5099 Arsenal, argued the city’s 2011 “Smoke Free Air Act” was unconstitutional, granted unfair exemptions, was vague, and forced the bar to unfairly compete with other smoking bars in nearby St. Louis County, where exemptions remain in place.
The law, which granted 100 bars five-year smoking exemptions in 2011, went into full force on Jan. 2.  Exemptions for casino gaming areas and tobacco stores, like Lumiere Place Casino or Stanley’s Cigar Bar in downtown, remain in place.
The Trophy Room’s suit argues that the law “grants a special or exclusive right, privilege or immunity” to casinos such as Lumière, which would keep its exemption. Bar owners say that sets a double standard.
The Trophy Room argued that it operates Missouri Lottery’s Keno game, which makes it a gaming area.
“The court does not find it is probable that petitioners’ retail license to sell Missouri Lottery products renders the subject property a ‘casino gaming area,'” Dowd wrote.
It remains unclear how vigorously the city will enforce the ordinance. Bars can be fined $500 a day for violating it, but so far no citations have been written.

4 responses to “2016-01-15 P-D: “City smoking ban remains in force, St. Louis judge rules”

  1. Martin, you say, “It’s the right thing to do and won’t lead to a loss of revenue, as opponents claim.” You seem really sure of this, and it’s attested to by a “biostatistician” (evidently a branch of economics I missed at Wharton), so I can’t really argue with your belief.

    However… if you REALLY believe that, then why don’t you help make your smoke-free dreams a reality by putting up your house and savings, and getting the same commitment from the other Antismokers working on this this, to cover the losses that businesses are so needlessly worrying about.

    After all, you DO believe what you’re saying, right? And you’re asking THEM to bet THEIR savings and livelihoods, so it’s really only fair that you and the ban groups join in, true? Sign the legal documents and I’ll bet most of the bar/casino opposition would evaporate! You’d have your ban!

    Usually Antismokers run away from such a deal faster than a little girl from a pack of Tarantulas. Will you?

    – MJM

    • mogasp reply: Michael, You’re trying to reframe this from a health issue, which you can’t win, to a question of profit and loss. That only becomes relevant if the cost of instituting a public health policy is prohibitively high in relation to the gain in saved healthcare costs, for example. They don’t typically apply in the case of smoke-free air, in my epxerience. My comment, part of which you’ve quoted, was this: “for the benefit of patrons and employees [make] all local casinos smoke-free. It’s the right thing to do and won’t lead to a loss of revenue, as opponents claim.” That comment was specifically aimed at casinos, and was based on the peer-reviewed study of which I was last coauthor called: “Exempting casinos from the Smoke-free Illinois Act will not bring patrons back: they never left.” But to some extent it’s a digression and I propose to end the debate about it now.

  2. mogasp reply: Michael, You’ve made this argument before and I can’t take it seriously. Why should anyone advocating or acting in favor of an issue affecting public health, whether they be a researcher, an elected official, or merely someone like me adversely affected by secondhand smoke, be expected to do what you suggest? It’s totally outlandish and without any real rational basis. Should we adopt the same criteria for every public health proposal that raises the least possibility of a financial loss for an affected business? All action on important health issues would be stifled if we did.

    • Mogasp, you ask “Why should anyone… in favor of an issue affecting public health… be expected to do what you suggest?”

      The answer is very simple Mogasp. If you truly believe what you claim, that the businesses affected WILL NOT LOSE MONEY and, indeed, will gain a whole new raft of ravenously hungry and desperately thirsty nonsmokers who’ve heretofore been hiding at home…. IF YOU TRULY BELIEVE THAT…

      … then you have NOTHING TO LOSE!

      Meanwhile, the goal that you so clearly and strongly want, the goal you’ve been fighting desperately toward for years, would almost certainly fall right into your grasp … all for risking NOTHING!

      You’ve constantly reassured biz owners that the ban won’t put THEM at risk, so clearly it would not put YOU at risk. So why should you NOT take action that costs you nothing and gives you what you’ve been so strongly fighting for? WHY HAS NO ANTISMOKING GROUP OR INDIVIDUAL ***EVER*** accepted this helpful suggestion?

      Can you explain that?

      – MJM

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