Monday, January 26, 2009

Letter to St. Charles County Executive Ehlmann on St. Louis Smoking Ban

Dear County Executive Ehlmann,

Today I read in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that several St. Louis County mayors have called for a St. Louis smoking ban.

But do St. Louis citizens favor a smoking ban? A 2007 survey by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services found that only 24.5 percent of St. Louis City residents favor banning smoking in bars and cocktail lounges. Support for such a ban in St. Louis County and St. Charles County is only slightly stronger at 30 and 31.2 percent. A ban on smoking in bars is favored by only 27.5 percent of Missourians overall. These local numbers line up with the latest Gallup Poll, which found that only 29 percent of Americans support a smoking ban in bars. This is pretty slim popular support for such a Draconian restriction of freedom and property rights.

Over the past years since former county councilman Kurt Odenwald's last attempted smoking ban, St Louis bars and restaurants that want to continue to allow smoking, though already compliant with OSHA air quality standards that protect worker health, have voluntarily installed air filtration technology that can make their air cleaner than the air outdoors. Such air purification removes not only tobacco smoke, but also viruses, bacteria, chemicals, pollen, dust, mold, fungi and, most importantly, radon decay products, which the EPA claims causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, seven times more than secondhand smoke is reputed to cause. These St. Louis venues that have invested in air filtration don't need a smoking ban. This talk of a smoking ban discourages other venues from following their good example. Please allow St. Louis establishments more time to voluntarily ban smoking or install air filtration technology to clear their air.

I hope that you can join me sometime at a venue such as Herbie's Vintage 72, formerly Cafe Balaban, that has cleared its air with filtration technology that can make both smokers and nonsmokers happy within the same venue.

Let me assure you, I am not compensated by and have no financial interest in, any tobacco or air filtration company. I just see air filtration as a great solution to the smoking ban issue in St. Louis. This solution is important for the continued success of local business. Federal Reserve economist Dr. Michael Pakko looked at the effect of the Columbia smoking ban on the bar and restaurant trade. Dr. Pakko determined that bars were down 11 percent due to the ban. Restaurants that serve alcohol were down 6.5 percent. The overall restaurant trade was down 3.5 percent. St. Louis doesn't need that kind of economic trouble right now!

Bill Hannegan
Keep St. Louis Free