Thursday, February 12, 2009

Clayton Needs a Smoking Ban in Restaurants and Work Place

Clayton could become the next local community to snuff out smoking in public places. Mayor Linda Goldstein and a majority on the city's Board of Aldermen appear almost ready to enact a ban in their own restaurant-heavy city.

Their officials decided a ban was an idea worth pursuing and intend to organize public meetings and surveys to find out what residents and businesses, especially restaurants, want.

They will look at five different forms of smoking bans. The most restrictive would ban smoking entirely indoors at public places and at their outdoor entryways. The least restrictive would require indoor restaurants to be smoke-free, but not outdoor patios, hotels or tobacco stores. of Five area mayors recently asked the St. Louis County Council and County Municipal League to look into a countywide ban.

Countywide efforts to ban smoking in public places failed in 2005 and 2006. County Executive Charlie Dooley supports a statewide ban but opposes the county acting without simultaneous bans in St. Charles County and St. Louis city. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's views are similar to Dooley's. These two leaders are playing politics. (We will do it, if you will do it. No, you do it first. No, YOU do it first)

Goldstein said she has received e-mails from out-of-town visitors saying that after visiting Clayton they had to go home and get their clothes cleaned because of smoke at hotels and restaurants. Goldstein told the aldermen Tuesday night that she wanted to make sure that all parties, especially the city's approximately 80 restaurants, are heard.

Several aldermen — clearly a majority — expressed strong support for a smoking ban of some sort in Clayton. "It's a public health issue," said Alderman Andrea Maddox-Dallas.Alderman Steven Lichtenfeld said, "I, too, am supportive of a smoking ban." (100% of the population breath, but only 25% of the population smoke. Duh! Let's use some common sense)

Illinois banned smoking in public places in January 2008. In Missouri, Lee's Summit, Columbia, Blue Springs, Springfield, Nixa and Kirksville restrict smoking, and in the St. Louis area, Ballwin and Arnold have bans.

Ballwin Mayor Walt Young, whose city banned smoking in restaurants and bars in January 2006, told the Clayton board Tuesday night that most people who came to the restaurants appreciated the smoke-free environment.

Young said that a ban should be a regional issue but that it had to start with the municipalities because no other government had been willing.In an interview Wednesday, Young said, "I urged (Clayton officials) to pass a ban on smoking but to get their neighbors to do so also."The Ballwin Board of Aldermen unanimously adopted on Monday night a resolution supporting regional or statewide action against smoking in public places.

Bill Hannegan, with Keep St. Louis Free, said in an interview that his organization would oppose any attempt by Clayton to establish a ban. "Businesses should be free to allow smoking, especially if they clear the air with available technology," Hannegan said. He said that at least two restaurant-bars in Clayton used special air filtration systems. One customer said, The only way technology can help is to put the smoker in a bubble. Let's be real."

William Lenz, a bartender at Kilkenny's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Clayton, said that it would be nice to work in a smoke-free environment, but he is worried that a ban could drive away customers. "Customers who smoke could go to Richmond Heights or Chesterfield, and downtown and Clayton would feel it," Lenz said.

Lenz comes from smoke-free Lawrence, Kan. The ban worked well there, he said, "because everyone went nonsmoking at once."

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