Thursday, November 29, 2007

Smoke-Free St. Louis City

The American Cancer Society is gearing up for a run at St. Louis City with a new Smoke-Free St. Louis group and website. This website will no doubt soon claim that working eight hours in a smoking-allowed bar has the same health effects as smoking 16 cigarettes, that a smoking ban will cause the heart attack rates in St. Louis to plummet, that smoking bans don't hurt the bar business, and other typically implausible claims.

It has to bother local ACS officials that St. Louis was named the most friendly city in America to smokers by Forbes Magazine in a positive article that praised St. Louis and political leaders in tolerant cities like St. Louis:

"Politicians in those towns view the issue as a question of property rights, allowing owners of restaurants, bars and other private businesses to permit the market to determine smoking policy. No clusters of cigarette butts on sidewalks in these towns, no masses of huddled smokers booted outside the local bar."

But St. Louis City will not be an easy mark for the ACS. Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed has pledged not to put a smoking ban on St. Louis bars and restaurants "unless a smoking ban is in place everywhere else." And the Missouri Restaurant Association and St. Louis bars now know, thanks to former County Councilman Kurt Odenwald, that the smoking ban juggernaut in not inevitable or unbeatable.

Furthermore, retired Monsanto analytical chemist turned ETS researcher David Kuneman, along with fellow researcher Michael McFadden, has completed a huge study that shows smoking bans have no effect on heart attack rates in communities that enact them. Such politically incorrect results have met with a lack of interest in public health journals, the same lack of interest Kuneman encountered in Kurt Odenwald, Kuneman's former 5th district councilman, but such research is starting to reach political leaders and ordinary citizens in Missouri.

It turns out heart attack rates fluctuate. From 2003 to 2004 the heart attack rate in South Carolina fell 12.5 percent and the heart attack rate in Nebraska fell 28.5 percent. Yet neither state had a smoking ban.