Bill proposes public smoking ban in Missouri

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some lawmakers in Missouri say a piece of legislation filed last week calling for a smoke-free state is a bill promoting good health throughout the state.

As it's written, the bill would ban smoking in restaurants, bars, and numerous other public venues.

With the support of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart and Lung Association, Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur and co-sponsor of the bill, said the time is right for the bill to be passed by the House of Representatives. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.

"I think the bill really protects people in the workplace. When jobs are really hard to find, a lot of people don't really have a choice where they want to go to work," Schupp said. "Putting this legislation in place makes them stay healthy."

Schupp said the bill is different from others proposed before it, in that it doesn't allow for many exemptions. Currently, the bill allows for two -- 20 percent of hotel rooms in a hotel can be smoking rooms and smoking is allowed in any business where the primary source of income is from tobacco products.

However, critics say the proposal may not make much headway.

"I'm still not convinced this is the year that happens," Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said restaurant owners, already facing economic challenges, would likely oppose the bill.

For Cape Girardeau's Pilot House Catering, where three-fourths of the clientele are smokers, manager Tommy Kilburn said the smoking ban wouldn't be a good move. The whole restaurant, about 1200 square feet, allows smoking, he said, and doesn't offer a nonsmoking section.

"But I don't see it hurting us that bad. It may be a pain for the customers, but I think they'll still come out," Kilburn said.

Stephanie Clark, owner of Broussard's Cajun Cuisine in Cape Girardeau, said the ban would be devastating to Missouri, just as it was in Illinois. Illinois' ban on smoking in public places took effect Jan. 1, 2008.

It's a liberty issue, Clark said, and if the bill is going to be passed, it should be passed without any exemptions.

"I'm a nurse too, so I understand the effects of chronic disease, but I also understand people make a choice to enter an establishment," Clark said. "To mom-and-pop businesses like us, we're already competing with corporate places. If we're going to do this, let's do it for everyone."

Schupp said the intent is to not hurt businesses, adding that in states where there's already been a smoking ban businesses aren't closing. The bigger problem, she said, is that different cities are adopting "patchwork" laws, where consumers don't know where they're allowed to smoke or not smoke.

"When we do this statewide, there is no other neighborhood place to go where you can find smoking allowed," she said. "I don't think the facts bear out that this will hurt businesses."

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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