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Much of St. Louis region going (mostly) smoke-free by January 2011

November 3rd voters in St. Louis County approved a clean air bill covering their county (65% yes).  Prior to their vote the Board of Aldermen in the City of St. Louis passed a bill doing basically the same thing in the city, which is separate from St. County.

Both will go smoke-free on January 2, 2011. Contrary to reports, the citizen vote in the County is not triggering the city bill – in fact the County bill is delaying the effective date in the city by one day.  The city’s bill called for an effective date of January 1, 2011 unless the County ordinance began sooner.  From section 15 of the city’s bill:

This Ordinance shall be effective on such date that the Saint Louis County enacts Smoke Free Air legislation, or on January 1, 2011, whichever date is later.

Since the county effective date is 1/2/2011 it is one day later in the city.  The city’s language was poorly worded but the 2nd actually makes more sense anyway because you don’t want to try to change the policy on the night everyone is celebrating New Year’s.  I’d have made it effective on 12/31/2010 but such measures usually start at the start of a year, not the end.

The City’s law exempts small bars for five long years from the effective date.  So they will go smoke-free on January 2, 2016.  Here is the exemption language:

Bars in existence on the effective date of this ordinance in which only persons aged twenty one (21) years old or older are permitted to enter the premises, the square footage of the entire floor area of the level of the building on which the bar establishment is located is two thousand (2000) square feet or less. The square footage shall not include kitchen areas, storage areas and bathrooms. The bar shall prominently displays outside of the premises at each entrance and above the bar the following sign in lettering that is black bold Arial font at (ninety-eight) 98 point size: “WARNING : SMOKING ALLOWED HERE”. This exemption for bars shall expire five (5) years after the effective date of this ordinance.

A bar is defined in the ordinance as:

“Bar” means an establishment that is devoted to the serving of alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises and in which the serving of food is only incidental to the consumption of those beverages, including but not limited to, taverns, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and cabarets.

My concern is that as most places goe smoke-free all the smokers are going to crowd into the small bars that permit smoking this exemption.  If that happens the non-smoking patrons of those places may shift to non-smoking bars to avoid the increase in smoke.  If this does happen that means these small bars will be increasingly dependent upon smokers. Instead of adjusting their business model to prepare for the coming smoke-free deadline they will be worse off than today.

Note that a new bar opened after January 2, 2011 it will be smoke-free regardless of the size.  Other exemptions include:

2. Not more than twenty percent (20%) of hotel and motel rooms rented to guests and designated as smoking rooms. All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous and smoke from these rooms must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. The status of rooms as smoking or nonsmoking may not be changed, except to add additional nonsmoking rooms.
3. Private clubs that have no employees, except when being used for a function to which the general public is invited; provided that smoke from such clubs does not infiltrate into areas
where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this Ordinance. This exemption shall not apply to any organization that is established for the purpose of avoiding compliance with this Ordinance.
4. Outdoor areas of places of employment.
5. Tobacco retail stores as defined by this Ordinance.
6. Casino gaming areas as defined by this Ordinance.

I’m not overly bothered by these exemptions — except that last one.  Employees of casinos are not immune from the dangers of 2nd hand smoke.  Interestingly, the issue of casino workers exposed to smoke may get resolved in the courts.

Wynn Las Vegas is the second major resort operator to be hit with a lawsuit recently over secondhand smoke dangers. (Source)

One suit involved a pregnant casino employee.  A woman should not have to quit her job to protect her baby’s health (unless her job is something like a race car driver, stunt woman, etc).  Next steps will be to remove the casino exemption, pass similar measure in other Missouri Counties in the St. Louis area.  Ideally the state will finally pass a state-wide measure.

We’ve got a little more than 13 months until places must go smoke-free.  Hopefully some will make the transition sooner rather than waiting until the deadline. By going smoke-free before the deadline establishments can probably get some extra PR for doing so.  Along those lines, establishments that go smoke-free prior to the deadline may want to consider advertising that fact here.  Come January 3rd 2011 nearly every place will be smoke-free so by doing so early and advertising it they stand a better chance of not getting lost in the crowd of places.

On the other hand one restaurant owner told me before Tuesday he wanted to go smoke-free but wanted the law to require it.  He will continue as a smoking establishment until the deadline — he doesn’t want to offend his regulars.  He is glad it will become law so he is finally able to go smoke-free.  I can respect that.  I told him I’d visit him in 2011, but not before.

– Steve Patterson


Vote Yes on Prop N

This Tuesday voters in St. Louis County will determine how soon much of the Missouri side of the region goes smoke-free.  Well, mostly smoke-free.

If passed, Prop N would prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces, including bars, restaurants, concert venues and indoor and outdoor sports facilities. It would also ban smoking on sidewalks and other outdoor spaces within 15 feet of an entrance to a public building.

The ordinance would exempt casino gaming floors; cigar and tobacco stores; hotel and long-term care rooms that have been designated for smokers; designated smoking areas of Lambert St. Louis International Airport; and bars that receive 25 percent or less of their gross sales from food.  (Source: West End Word)

I think many on both sides of the issue can agree the county and the city’s bill have too many exemptions and the wider a smoke-free policy is the less disadvantage any business may be. That is where agreement ends.

Despite the flaws I hope that voters in St. Louis County support Prop N so our region takes another step closer to being totally smoke-free in establishments open to the public.   The pro-smoking groups will tell you the smoking rate in St. Louis is higher than in other parts of the country.  That is about all I’ll believe from them.  The fact is many places want to go smoke free but are afraid to do so on their own.  They need the law to make it so competing restaurants in their immediate vicinity are also smoke-free.

Secondhand smoke is a public health threat, just like unsanitary restaurant kitchens or unsafe stores.
For workers who spend their days and nights in smoke-filled bars and restaurants, the danger is magnified.

They include many young people working at their first jobs. Often, those workers aren’t offered health insurance and aren’t in an economic position to quit.

People shouldn’t be forced to risk their health just to earn a living.  (Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial)

I agree, this is about the health of our community.  To me this is an important step in the right direction.

– Steve Patterson


St. Louis’ Sidewalks Will Be More Crowded with Smokers Than in NYC?

September 22, 2009 Smoke Free 42 Comments

Smokers are noisy & trashy.  So says smoking advocate Bill Hannegan in emails arguing against smoke-free public spaces.  Smokers are so bad we are best advised to keep them indoors rather than unleashing, he suggests.

Recent communication to Gary Weigert, President of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association:

I am writing to warn you about the smoking ban proposed by Alderman Lyda Krewson and currently being considered by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Health and Human Services Committee. Unlike the smoking ban proposed in St. Louis County, the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 would ban smoking in all work vehicles. This ordinance would require St. Louis City police officers to park and exit their patrol cars in order to smoke. Given the dangers police officers are subject to when patrolling the streets of St. Louis City, this seems like an unreasonable and special restriction the St. Louis Police Officers Association should protest. Again, the proposed St. Louis County smoking ban contains no such restriction.

I’d say a non-smoking employee should not be forced to endure the smoke of a co-worker.  Citizens who sit in a police car while filing a complaint should also not be subjected to the smoke of an officer.  Our city vehicles should not be damaged by the smoking habit of employees. Besides police vehicles we have ambulances and service vehicles.  City inspectors, for example, use city vehicles for official business.  If these employees want to smoke in their private homes, fine.   The city has no responsibility to provide a smoking environment for employees that work outside smoke-free buildings.

Hannegan continues:

I also want to warn you that the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 would continuously place bar patrons on sidewalks outside clubs, taverns and bars until 3:00 am. Since St. Louis City clubs, taverns and bars are often embedded in neighborhoods, the problems with noise complaints due to large numbers of patrons smoking outdoors will be huge.

Here is a link to a short video which documents the problems of noise and litter a smoking ban has brought to New York City. When this video was made, less than 20 percent New York City residents smoked. In contrast, 30 percent of St. Louis City residents currently smoke. The problems with smokers on the streets, especially for neighborhoods with bars embedded in them, will be far worse in St. Louis.

The  video was created by a similar group trying to prevent Chicago from going smoke-free.  So this video is a few years old since the entire state of Illinois went smoke-free on 2/1/2008.  The implication is the streets of St. Louis will dissolve into chaos of noise & litter on par with NYC if we go smoke-free.

But if we look at the numbers we see just how exaggerated the scare tactic really is:

  • New York City: 8,363,710 total population x 20%  = 1,672,742 smokers on 304.8 sq. miles of land = 5,488/smokers per square mile.
  • St. Louis: 354,361 total population x 30% = 106,308 smokers on 61.9 sq. miles of land = 1,717/smokers per square mile.

NYC has 320% more smokers per square mile than the City of St. Louis!  In no way will we have widespread problems yet the claim is it will be “far worse” in St. Louis than New York.  Only if 96% of the St. Louis population smoked would he have a fair comparison.  Pure FUD.

Besides, I thought our smokers were all going to stay home to smoke causing every restaurant to go bankrupt?  Now they are going to go out but they will clog sidewalks everywhere. Which is it?  Neither really, but that is how Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt works.

Wikipedia has some good visuals to help understand the myriad of state laws that exist.  The following is color chart used to show the variations:

The map below shows what states have what laws using the color chart above:

Map of current and scheduled future statewide smoking bans as of June 26, 2009.

The world has not stopped spinning, the sun still rises in the East, alcohol is still consumed.  Bars, pool halls and bowling alleys still operate in states shown in white above.    Even better than Missouri clearing the air would be if the United States joined the long list of other countries with varying laws on smoke-free workplaces. Wikipedia:

The Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to institute an outright ban on smoking in workplaces on 29 March 2004. From that date onwards, under the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, it has been illegal to smoke in all enclosed workplaces. The ban is strictly enforced and includes bars, restaurants, clubs, offices, public buildings, company cars, trucks, taxis and vans – and within a three meter radius to the entrances of these locations.

As I understand it people still drink in Ireland.  People will still drink in St. Louis.  St. Louis’ sidewalks will not somehow become more crowded with smokers than in New York City.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Support Ballot Measure for a Smoke-Free St. Louis County

The poll last week was about the November ballot measure in St. Louis County regarding the relatively weak smoke-free law (excludes casino floors, for example).  The poll question was:

In November voters in St. Louis County have a smoke-free ballot item. My thoughts are:

  • I support the measure and believe it will pass. 88 (54%)
  • I support the measure but feel it will fail. 31 (19%)
  • I oppose the measure but feel it will pass. 20 (12%)
  • I oppose the measure and believe it will fail.  19 (12%)
  • I have no view/opinion 6 (4%)

If we look at this another way we see that 119 of the 164 votes support the measure (73%) while 39 oppose (24%) and the remaining 6 have no opinion.  That is the support/opposition to the measure.

Of the responses 108/164 (66%) think it will pass while 50/164 (30%)  believe it will fail.  Let’s hope the final outcome follows these numbers, assuming a simple majority is all that is needed for passage.

– Steve Patterson


Let the FUD Campaign Begin

Voters in St. Louis County will have a smoke-free measure on their November ballot.  Those addicted to nicotine to campaign against the measure.

The measure does have flaws — exemption of casino floors and bars that serve little food.  A state-wide smoke-free measure, more likely once we

The rhetoric will be high, pure FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Bill Hannegan, who fought the county bill, said he thought opponents would have a real chance of defeating it at the polls.

People are angry about “the way it was handled and the unfairness of the law,” he said.

“For example, bowling alleys are out of luck. You can smoke on a casino gaming floor but can’t smoke at all in a bowling alley. Bowlers will be angry about this.”

This bowler will be pleased.  What Hannegan should have said is the nicotine-addicted bowler will be angry.

Next month the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will resume consideration of a bill that would create a smoke-free St. Louis, triggered by a measure in St. Louis County.  Hopefully the existence of the ballot item in the county will help the city measure pass.  In turn, I hope a passed city ordinance would motivate county voters to pass their measure.  If anything the fragmentation in our region may stretch the opposition forces thinly.  Now is the time for officials in St. Charles County and Jefferson County to push their own measures.

The poll this week, in the upper right sidebar, asks both if you support or oppose the St. Louis County ballot measure and if you think it will pass or fail.

If passed St. Louis County would go smoke-free in January 2011.

– Steve Patterson