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Exemptions in Proposition N are unfair to local businesses

On Nov. 3, St. Louis County voters will weigh in on Proposition N, which will ban smoking in enclosed public spaces, along with sidewalks and other outdoor spaces within 15 feet of the entrance to a public building. The ordinance would exempt casino gaming floors and bars that receive 25 percent or less of their gross sales from food.

We understand and support the public health initiative behind Proposition N. The risks posed by secondhand smoke are real and frightening, and we commend the measures taken by the county to alleviate unnecessary exposure to such risks.

However, we feel that the ban would be fundamentally unfair to local businesses because it discriminates between bars that serve food and those that don’t, and it favors casinos. According to a spokesman for County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, who introduced the bill, there are likely fewer than 100 bars in the county that would qualify for the 25 percent exemption, despite the approximately 1,000 businesses with liquor licenses in St. Louis County.

Gene Cantrall, who manages Duffy’s in Richmond Heights—a popular Tuesday night hangout among Washington University students—feels that the ban will hurt small businesses like the one he works for. “Smoking is an important part of a bar atmosphere, and exempt bars will probably end up getting more business because of [the ban],” he said.

The legislation also unduly favors casinos, which generate enormous amounts of tax revenue for St. Louis County and likely hold sway over the County Council.

When a smoking ban was passed in New York City in 2003, a study conducted by the Vintners Federation of Ireland found that 78 percent of New York City bars claimed that the ban had a negative impact on their business. This number shows that people are discouraged from going out to places where they cannot smoke.

We feel that discouraging people from going out is a necessary consequence of a smoking ban, but Proposition N’s exemptions will create unfair consequences for local businesses, hurting bars like Duffy’s and helping alcohol-only venues. Therefore, we think that an appropriate county-wide ban would prohibit smoking in all public places—even casinos and establishments that receive 25 percent or less of their gross sales from food.

A ban with fewer exemptions has become the norm elsewhere—in New York City and the state of California, smoking is prohibited in all public places—and we think that St. Louis should take a similar direction.

On this count, we encourage our readers to vote against Proposition N, and we encourage the County Council to go back to the drawing board, drafting a proposition that is fair to local businesses.

  • Anthony

    Yes, this is all Obama’s fault. Second hand smoke is fine. Never mind that even George W. Bush’s surgeon general says second hand smoke causes health problems. We shouldn’t let “science” tell us what is or is not healthy. After all, science has a known liberal bias.

  • Raul Allegre

    I agree with Charles Beward. No legitimate study has been able to show the supposedly obvious link between second hand smoke and any health problem. The anti-smoking crusaders are just busybodies who think they know better than you how to take care of your body and how to run your business. It’s the same elitist mentality currently on display in the white house. At some point we have to accept that we’re adults and should be responsible for our own behavior. We don’t need a nanny state micro-managing our toilets, light bulbs, cigarettes, etc.

  • “The risks posed by secondhand smoke are real and frightening.”

    Would you believe unreal and unfrightening? Where does such nonsense come from if not from the propaganda put out by the rabid anti-smoking people? Here’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, anti-smoking crusader, world-class epidemiologist (Harvard/Yale), and president of the American Council on Science and Health, speaking for herself and her Council of 380 scientists at the time the New York City ban went into effect: “There is simply no convincing evidence linking secondhand smoke to lung cancer and heart disease.” “There is no evidence that any New Yorker — patron or employee — has even died as a result of exposure to smoke in a bar or restaurant.” And, “The link between secondhand smoke and premature death is a real stretch.” Now just exactly where in all of that do the staff editorial writers find anything that can justifiable be labeled “real and frightening”? Or was that simply meant as a Halloween message for children and the easily persuaded?

  • While I respect your opinion, I must disagree. I have noted that most of those who criticize Proposition N because it is “flawed”, or “doesn’t go faer enough” have never done anything to work toward a comprehensive smoke-free bill. I fully expect Proposition N to pass in spite of thes elitist comments, but should it fail, I challenge you to get off your butts and work to pass what you consider to be a perfect bill. You might just come to find out that Proposition N is a pretty good bill after all.

  • CB

    I agree with David; Prop N needs to pass to get the ball rolling. We need to ban smoking in public places asap.

  • Why should we dictate at all to bars and restaurants what they can do with their own businesses? If you don’t like an establishment which allows smoking, vote with your feet and go somewhere else.

  • David

    I feel that only after voting for this proposition will they go further to ban smoking in all public places. If people vote no on this ban it will only delay for too long a further ban. Only by voting yes will we see a progressive step in the right direction.