The Joplin Globe, a major local newspaper in southwestern Missouri, just published an edited version of a much longer OpEd I submitted recently. Joplin is the largest city in Jasper County with a 2010 census city population of 50,150. The reported circulation of The Joplin Globe is 20,414 [ref: Cision.com dated January 16, 2013]. Below is the published version for those interested.
A fresh batch of Missouri legislators has just convened for the start of the new legislative session. One of their surprises may be the fact that, despite all other state buildings being smoke-free, legislators have exempted themselves from that requirement in the state Capitol.
Some years ago, Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution assisted Ms. Vivian Dietemann, a smoke-sensitive asthmatic from St. Louis, in filing an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint with the Missouri attorney general’s office regarding smoking in the Capitol. At the time, smoking was allowed throughout the building, the only exception being the visitors’ gallery overlooking the House chamber. Ms. Dietemann’s efforts in late 1993 and early 1994 led to a substantial reduction in where smoking was allowed.
But today, senators and some House members are still permitted to smoke in their offices, as well as a members lounge behind the House chamber, and there is a smoking area in the underground garage.*
Sweeping smoke-free air ordinances became effective in St. Louis city and county on Jan. 2, joining many other Missouri communities. A smoke-free air initiative petition was recently approved by Jefferson City voters, so now you can’t smoke in a local bar but you can still smoke in the state Capitol.
What kind of example is the Missouri Capitol setting for young children who visit the building when they smell secondhand smoke coming from legislators’ offices? What does this say about legislators themselves who allow this to continue?
It really is time for the “Smoke-Me” Capitol to go smoke-free.
President, Missouri GASP
*The following was evidently added by the editor:
“as well as a members lounge behind the House chamber, and there is a smoking area in the underground garage.”
The first part is incorrect, to my knowledge. In fact, the Rules were changed at the start of the 2011 session to make the private members lounge smoke-free. That was after an unsuccessful effort to make the entire building smoke-free. Here’s the relevant paragraph from the story “Smoking still allowed in Missouri’s legislative offices” by St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jefferson City reporter Virginia Young:
“Those pushing to bar smoking have wrung one concession from Republican House leaders, who agreed to ban it in the rear gallery, where legislators often grab meals between votes.”
In addition, the “smoking area in the underground garage” may also no longer exist, but that needs to be verified.