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AT&T’s Smokers Sidewalk

July 24, 2009 Smoke Free 26 Comments

Except in local restaurants & bars, smokers are often forced to take their addiction outside.  This typically means the public sidewalk.  I can generally avoid the addicted feeding their habit but when I head to Citygarden I’m forced to deal with it. I typically take 10th Street South from Washington Ave to reach Citygarden.  I may need to find an alternate route.

Sidewalks along 9th & 10tth at the AT&T building adjacent to Citygarden are covered by the building, as you see above.  Smokers congregate in these enclosed areas, making passage very unpleasant.  Even on weekends when employees are not present these sidewalks reek.

When the building was built the public sidewalks were moved inwards to allow ramps for the underground parking garage:

As with smoking near building entrances, I’d like to see smokers kept out of these areas.   It is not their private smoking lounge — others need to pass through as well. Let them smoke in un-covered areas where the smoke dissipates.

When you pass through here in a wheelchair it is worse than walking because you are down at the level where they hold the cigarettes.  I can’t yet place my left hand over my face and my right hand is controlling the chair.  I may need to get a mask to wear when I pass through.  Do you think they’ll get the message?

Somehow, someway, this situation needs to change.

– Steve Patterson


“We Are Barely Surviving”

“We are barely surviving” was the testimony of one bar owner on day one of hearings last week on Board Bill 46 to create a smoke-free St. Louis.  75% of her customers are smokers.   Her business is barely making it as it is.  Take away her smoking customers and she won’t survive.

During the 3 hours I was at the hearing she was just across the aisle from me.  Throughout the testimony of those speaking in favor og BB46 she’d say things like “stay home.”  Her bar targets 25% of the population and is barely getting by yet she wants non-smokers to stay home.  When your business is focused on a niche market but isn’t doing well, telling a bigger audience to stay home just seems like bad business.

Just as I will not step foot into an establishment that permits smoking I would imagine there is a group of smokers unwilling to go to a place were they can’t smoke indoors.  I’d imagine this being around 5% of both smokers and non-smokers.  Do smokers drink more than non-smokers?  Perhaps but I know many non-smokers that drink plenty.

But non-smokers don’t stay home, they just go to places that are not heavily smokey.  Again, I don’t go into spaces where smoking is permitted.  Two places I’d like to visit again, Tuckers & Joanies, have non-smoking sections upstairs over smoking areas.  Might as well make it all smoking because the air is the same. Pathetic.

Those restaurants that are viewed by smokers & non-smokers as a smoking establishment to the point that 75-90% of the customers are smokers likely will not survive when St. Louis or Missouri finally goes smoke-free.  They are going to hold onto that niche clientele until they go broke (lack of non-smoking customers) or the law says smoking is no longer permitted indoors.

If more than 25% of your customers smoke indoors you need to rethink your business plan.  Improve your outdoor options.  Begin preparing for the day when indoor smoking in public places in St. Louis is no longer permitted.  Or you can fight it and in a few years return to your old space to see what opened after your niche business closed.

The Board of Aldermen’s Heath & Human Services committee will continue hearings on BB46 at 1pm on July 9th in Room 208 in City Hall.

– Steve Patterson


Three National Health Organizations to Oppose Proposed St. Louis Clean-Air Act

Next week three national organizations; American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and  American Cancer Society, will announce their opposition a proposed smoke-free ordinance for the City of St. Louis.  Yes, you read correctly.  These organizations will be opposing local efforts to clear the public air of cigarette smoke.  Why you ask?  The bill is not pure.

Alderman Lyda Krewson’s bill (#46) includes a triggering mechanism  — it would not go into effect until a similar measure does in St. Louis County:

This Ordinance shall be effective on such date that the Saint Louis County Council enacts Smoke Free Air legislation which prohibits smoking in the enclosed public places as defined in Section Four of this Ordinance.

These organizations don’t like such measures being dependant upon other jurisdictions.  So they plan to oppose the measure.  They and the pro-smoking lobby will be on the same side.  Just seems wrong.

The St. Louis region is second only to Baltimore for the number of units of government on a per capita basis.  St. Louis County has 91 municipalities plus area that is unincorporated.  Ideally we’ve have a Missouri smoke-free law like the one covering the Illinois side of the region.  But that may be a while.

Krewson had several choices:

  1. Do nothing and continue to wait for a state law.
  2. Wait for St. Louis County to pass a law and then react.
  3. Introduce a bill with no trigger and watch it never get out of committee.

The fact is that the chances of getting a smoke-free bill for the city only is slim to none.  Remember we have 28 wards.  Securing enough votes on a controversial measure takes considerable work.   Going it along, which I wouldn’t object to, would never pass.

Before Krewson introduced the bill I was among the persons advocating the trigger mechanism.  It would let the city take a leadership role iuin the region and give some assurances to the St. Louis County Council that when they passed a law that it would trigger the city law.  Maybe these national groups don’t realize that St. Louis is not in St. Louis County?

Getting this law on the books in the city would be an important first step to getting St. Louis County on board.  Passing this bill with the county trigger shifts the debate to the county.  They may pass a measure triggered by a similar measure in St. Charles County.  I agree, it is not ideal.  Politics is never pretty and when practiced in a highly fragmented environment it is downright ugly.  So I have a problem with these organizations standing in the way of the only way we are going to get smoke-free air on the Missouri side of the region.

Krewson returned my request for comment ysterday morning.  She was aware these groups are planning to oppose her bill.

She has been at the Board of Aldermen for nearly 12 years now.  Her day job is as a CFO.  She can count.  She knows how to get legislation passed.  These organizations don’t get it — the St. Louis region is not typical.  We need to change out city charter.  We need to consolidate the 91 separate municipalities in St. Louis County.  But I don’t want to wait for those events to get smoke-free air.

The one size fits all strategy these national organizations seek just doesn’t cut it.  It irks me they may ruin our chances.  Hopefully we can overcome their objections.  Hearings on the bill begin Tuesday at noon in room 208 at  city hall.

– Steve Patterson


Missouri Court of Appeals Upholds Kansas City Smoke-Free Law

June 23, 2009 Smoke Free 13 Comments

Earlier today a Missouri court rejected a challenge to a Kansas City law mandating restarant & bars be smoke-free.

The [Missouri Court of Appeals] affirmed Kansas City’s comprehensive smoking ban. An appeal had been filed by JC’s Sports Bar in Clay County.

Jonathan Sternberg, the attorney representing the bar, had argued that Kansas City is not allowed to regulate smoking in bars, billiard parlors and restaurants that seat fewer than 50 people because state law permits smoking in such places. He said Kansas City’s strict smoking restrictions are in conflict with state law and violate the Missouri Constitution.

But the city argued that state law does not “permit” smoking in bars, small restaurants and billiard halls; it simply leaves those places unregulated, and cities can still impose smoking restrictions there. The court of appeals agreed, saying that Kansas City’s authority to enact the ban was not denied by other laws.  (Source)

The pro-smoking lobby was counting on the court to tell a municipality they could not create stricter laws than the state.  Comments on earlier posts reflected this viewpoint.  From April 17th:

The Missouri courts are about to strike down all municipal bar/restaurant smoking ordinances in the state. The state says that bars, taverns, restaurants that seat less than 50 people, bowling alleys, and billiard parlors “are not considered a public place” for the purposes of smoking regulation as long as they post signs saying “Nonsmoking Areas are Unavailable.” Cities can’t redesignate those places as “public places” and ban smoking in them completely.

And from a different person on June 2nd:

Steve, I’d be glad to bet you or anyone else 100 dollars that the Ballwin smoking ban will be gone by the end of this summer.

A state can tell counties and municipalities when they are not permitted to enact stricter laws but in the absence of such a limit these entities are free to do so.  So sorry guys, do your smoking at home.  Nice timing from the court too.  Following on the heals of a new federal law regulating tobacco products and just days hearings on a bill to create a smoke-free St. Louis, BB46, is heard in committee at the Board of Aldermen (June 30th).

– Steve Patterson


Poll, How Long Before the City of St. Louis Will Be Smoke-Free

You oppose, favor or are neutral about smoke-free legislation.  Regardless of your perspective on the merits of smoke-free laws, I want your opinion on when you think the City of St. Louis will be covered by smoke-free legislation. Here is the question:

Clayton will go smoke-free in July 2010.  Regardless of your view on such laws, at what point do you think the City of St. Louis will go smoke-free, if ever?

The possible answers are:

  • Before the end of 2009
  • January 2010
  • same time as Clayton – July 2010
  • January 2011
  • Only upon a statewide ban
  • January 2012
  • Never — not for City or Missouri
  • By January 2015
  • Unsure/Don’t Care

Remember this is not about when you want it passed or don’t want it passed. You may, for example, oppose smoke-free laws but think it will be in effect by January 2011.  Or if you are like me, you want these laws in effect yesterday, but realize it will not happen as quickly as you’d like.  So when you vote in the poll don’t select the answer you’d like to see but what you think will be the outcome.

You can find the poll in the sidebar to the right.

– Steve Patteron