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Community Weighs in on the Smoking Ban Issue

Residents took definite sides on the smoking ban issue. The effort to put the smoking ban on the ballot was defeated, but it is likely to resurface through St. Charles County Council action or a citizen initiative petition.

Community Weighs in on the Smoking Ban Issue

Before the St. Charles County Council voted on the smoke-free ballot issue on Monday, several people addressed the council regarding the proposal.

St. Charles County Council members defeated the proposal to put the smoke-free issue on the November 2012 ballot.

Following are some excerpts from what residents said.

Sharon Lee, manager of Siteman Cancer Center in BJC St. Peters Hospital

“Tobacco use has a direct relationship to causing cancer.

“I don’t think this is about public rights as much as it is ‘Let the public speak.’ So once again, we would ask you to let the public make this decision. Let them vote in the November 2012 election, and let their vote be heard.”

Jerry Haferkamp of St. Charles

Haferkamp said the American Legion in St. Charles sponsors a bingo night to raise funds for charities and other projects.

“We get people from Belleville and Collinsville because the socialist state of Illinois declared no smoking. We get people from O’Fallon because the Legion there had to stop their bingo because they have a smoking ban.

“If we lose that revenue, we won’t be able to give $400 to American Legion baseball.”

He said the ban would affect all veterans' organizations.

“Don’t take away their liberty. They fought for it.”

Lauren Steinbruegge of St. Charles County

“In New York City, sales have actually increased since there has been a smoking ban. In a 2006 study by the University of Nevada-Reno, researchers concluded that four out of five patrons are actually nonsmokers. Casino customers do not smoke any more than the average U.S. population smokes, so the smoking ban would not affect casinos any more than any other businesses.

“Another thing to consider is that nonsmokers outnumber smokers 3-1, so according to research, any business lost due to the smoking ban would be recovered, if not increased, by the nonsmoking population that would patronize those businesses more regularly.

“It’s very embarrassing when my friends from O’Fallon and St. Louis County won’t even go to St. Charles purely because of the smoke. Why are we so far behind the times?

“Someone at the last meeting said we are all adults, and we have the right to choose where we do and don’t go. However, when we are the ones making a conscious effort to be healthy by not smoking, why should we be the ones who have to avoid certain businesses just so we don’t have to breathe polluted air? Doesn’t it make sense that the ones being bothersome to others should be the ones to leave?”

Carol Gold, owner South 94 Bistro

“’Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals, freedom from unwarranted infringements by governments and private organizations and assures ones ability to participate in civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression. There’s equality and diversity, that no group should be superior in America’s society than another.’

“(That was) quoted by Rosa Parks Dec. 1, 1955 when she was asked by the bus driver to give up her bus seat to the white passenger—that was an ordinance written in Montgomery, AL. That’s what’s happening to smokers and businesses all over the United States. We are asked to step out by our government to smoke. The business owners now have unwarranted infringements by governments. What happened to our civil rights?

“Governments’ job is to provide protection to minorities in our society. Smoking is an easy target. Most people don’t like cigarettes, therefore, they don’t care too much about smoking bans. But these bans take away our freedom. Just because we don’t use a particular freedom doesn’t mean we should allow it to be taken away. Unfortunately, most people, because they are too busy, don’t realize the significance of what happens or it doesn’t affect them. They don’t do anything until the freedom has been lost, and it’s too late.

“These two bills will not only hurt the minority, but it also will be an unwarranted infringement by you upon the small business owners.”

Bobbi Carothers of St. Charles

“St. Charles prides itself on being a great place to raise a family: safe neighborhoods, great schools. Nevertheless, if you want to take your kids out to dinner and make sure they won’t be exposed to secondhand smoke, you’ll have better luck taking them to a casino in East St. Louis than you will anywhere in Old Town St. Charles.

“Illinois has protected the patrons of restaurants, bars and casinos from secondhand smoke for years. Smoke-free legislation has passed in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis. But I still can’t go down the hill to Trailhead Brewery and get their stout on tap without smelling like an ashtray.

"When my family comes out from out of town, I have to take them and my money across the river because they’re aghast that people still smoke in restaurants here. St. Charles cannot rightly claim to be family-friendly without a smoke-free policy.

"Surely the right to clean air in public places for the majority of the people who don’t smoke outweigh the rights of the minority who do smoke and fill the air with carcinogens where they please.

“Opponents claim to be worried about the rights of the business owners to run their businesses as they see fit. Let’s not kid ourselves. They are responsible for having items in their businesses that affect their customers.”

Jim Franke of St. Charles, general manager of Ameristar Casino-St. Charles

Two weeks ago, Franke said that according to estimates based on a smoking ban that affected a casino in Colorado, business would drop off about 20 percent if a smoking ban is enacted.

“This is simply a business rights issue. I did state two weeks ago, each person has the right to choose whether they enter our establishment. Absolutely, we do things with our air quality because we are concerned about our guests. We want guests to come in and enjoy our facility, and we want them to come back.

“A lot of people enjoy smoking, and we want to make them to be as happy as our nonsmoking guests.”

Franke had several Ameristar employees stand up.

“A vote to ban smoking costs them jobs. You guys want to pick them? Which one do you want to pick? It’s probably going to be a couple. People have choices. They can enter our facility or not. Our team members have choices. They can choose to work there or not. I’m a former smoker myself. I quit five years ago. I still choose to work there.”

"I agree that something is going to kill me. I will die at some point in time.  I don’t know when, I don’t know why. I don’t need government controlling every single thing I do. This is business rights. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Steve Chapman, of Lake Saint Louis

“Anybody who thinks their rights are being infringed upon, nonsmokers rights are being infringed upon when they have to sit there and breathe in smoke.”

He noted that Franke brought in his employees and asked which one should lose their job.

“If you want to worry about which one will be fired or lose his job, have them stand back up and pick which one you want to get cancer, die and his family will be without them.

“Just give people the right to vote on this. That’s all we’re asking. Put this on the ballot and let’s vote.”

Marissa Caprio of St. Charles County

Caprio said she moved to Missouri from Philadelphia, which has a smoking ban.

“If you want to ban smoking, then ban alcohol because people drive drunk and kill people, and we can prove that happens."

She said in Philadelphia when they banned smoking, they had 24-hour restaurants.

“The restaurants ended up having to close down at 9, 10 o’clock because their business was down. How many jobs were lost? How many people couldn’t put food on the table because that was their only means of income? Government bureaucrats shut it down.”

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