Smoke-free air opponent, Bill Hannegan, whose blog KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE extols indoor air pollution if it’s from tobacco smoke, has been fighting a losing battle for years. His current untenable position is promoting an “Over 21” exemption so that he can smoke in his favorite bars. His recent letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reprinted below, urges St. Louis County Council to support his argument and relax restrictions at a time when they’re considering tightening them.
My letter in response is fortuitously published in today’s newspaper, just in time for a Perfection vote this evening on a smoke-free air bill sponsored by County Councilman Mike O’Mara. Mr. O’Mara has gone on record as saying he wants to remove existing unfair exemptions, such as smoking in small bars and the gaming area of casinos so I hope that’s what this bill does.
Both letters are reproduced below, starting with Mr. Hannegan’s:County Council should consider ‘over 21’ rule on smoking ban
Published January 31, 2013
St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara has announced that the current exemption system in the St. Louis County smoking ban is hurting some establishments that serve too much food and too little alcohol to qualify for an exemption. O’Mara wants to redo the smoking ban to make it more fair to all establishments and less economically harmful.
I would like to point out that establishments currently exempted from the St. Louis County smoking ban can, and do, allow minors to enter their smoking areas. The County Council could both tighten the current ban, and make it more fair, by substituting an “over 21” rule for the current food vs. alcohol sales exemption criterion. The rule would be simple: When an establishment allows smoking, it must exclude minors. Minors thus would no longer be exposed to smoking in St. Louis County establishments. Nor would a special exemption for bars and casinos any longer be needed. The playing field would then be level. Every establishment of every type would have a choice: Allow smoking or allow minors. Pick one. What could be more simple, commonsensical and fair?
Bar owners have consistently told the council that an “over 21” rule would be a more reasonable exemption criterion than the food percentage requirement and that such a rule would be far less harmful to county businesses. O’Mara and the rest of the council could largely resolve the smoking ban issue in St. Louis County if they finally heed their advice.
Bill Hannegan • St. Louis
‘Over 21’ exemption would reverse progress on smoke-free workplaces
Published February 5, 2013
I’d like to respond to Bill Hannegan’s Jan. 31 letter urging an “over 21” exemption from smoke-free air laws for establishments serving alcohol. Mr. Hannegan has been pushing this proposal for years so that he can smoke in his favorite venues, but it’s totally illogical.
When I first got a job transfer to the U.S. from Britain in 1977, I found myself cooped up in a windowless two-person office with a colleague and Ph.D. who smoked Camel cigarettes incessantly, the nearest thing to torture I’ve ever endured.
When I got a job in St. Louis in 1980, the open office situation wasn’t much better. The norm was smoking allowed everywhere, except the computer room to protect the mainframe computers.
It’s taken literally decades to finally achieve a situation where almost all workplaces in metro St. Louis are smoke-free. The most glaring exceptions are for standalone bars and casino gaming areas, which St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara has indicated he wants to remove.
If we accept Mr. Hannegan’s logic, then we should extend his exemption to every adult workplace. I trust we have more sense than to go back to the smoky Stone Ages.
Martin Pion • Ferguson