Lambert smokers get reprieve

Saturday, May 17, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Smokers traveling through Lambert Airport in St. Louis can puff away after all.

A bill before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen bans smoking in all buildings owned or leased by the city, but Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. excluded the airport from the ban. Bosley allowed the exemption after airport administrators showed him a video of how the airport smoking lounge exhausts remove smoke from the lounges.

Air quality tests paid for by the Tobacco Free Missouri-Greater St. Louis Coalition indicate that there are traces of nicotine in the air outside the lounges. But Bosley said those traces could come from the clothing of smokers.

"We have no business fixing something that is not broken," he said Thursday.

The airport includes eight smoking lounges in concourses and one in the main terminal. The city spent about $450,000 to install them six years ago.

Viviane McKay, a member of the coalition, said she was happy, for now, with the partial victory.

"We will put the airport in a separate bill altogether," McKay said. "We have to try to show the aldermen that even though there may be small amounts of nicotine, cigarette smoke is still getting out" of the lounges.

Aldermen worried that closing the lounges would force smokers outside and create jams at security checkpoints as they passed through repeatedly. Some said it was irresponsible for the city to spend money on the lounges and then take them out.

Bosley's bill also prohibits smokers from lighting up within 25 feet of a city building. At city hall, that would mean no more workers huddling around ashtrays just outside entrances, where an overhang helps protect them from bad weather.

"I wish we could make it completely off city property," Bosley said.

Some smokers at City Hall grumbled at the ban. But Matt Murphy, an assistant to Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury, said it would be an incentive for him to quit.

"We are a dying breed, literally, and it's time to face the fact that public sentiment rests with the nonsmokers," Murphy said.

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