Monday, February 02, 2009

Diana Benanti, Coalition Director of Smoke-Free St. Louis City, has got St. Louis wrong

Diana Benanti, Coalition Director of Smoke-Free St. Louis City, is a lot like former Ballwin alderman Charlie Gatton who got the only St. Louis smoking ban passed back in 2004. Both are reformed 3 pack a day smokers who can't stand the fact that St. Louis still allows indoor smoking. Both are willing to go to great lengths to get a smoking ban passed.

I am glad that Diana and Charlie quit smoking. 3 packs a day is an awful risk to take with one's health. But as Corey Lawson found when he tried to run rBar as a smoke-free bar, many people who don't normally smoke like to smoke when they go out. People who smoke minimally, socially and occasionally are not putting their health at grave risk. They should be left alone as should the business owners who want their business.

Diana expresses embarrassment that St. Louis still allows smoking in bars. Diana should instead be proud that St. Louis still respects the property rights of business owners and the free choice of adults. And St. Louis is too smart to be taken in by the false claims that fooled Illinois lawmakers.

Diana writes: "We need to spread the word about how the vast majority of City residents want to see St. Louis City join the 21st century and go smoke-free in bars and restaurants."

This is simply an untrue statement about St. Louis. According to a survey by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, only 24.5 percent of St. Louisan City residents favor a smoking ban in bars and cocktail lounges.

"The longer St. Louis City allows smoking, the more money the City loses—in convention revenue, lost business from commuters who will dine in Illinois to stay out of the smoke, health care costs, etc."

Diana, Illinois casinos are down 20 percent due to the smoking ban. If a smoking ban would be good for St. Louis business, why did St. Louis bars and restaurants, including the Missouri Restaurant Association, fight a smoking ban so hard in 2005 and 2006? Why are Columbia bars down 11 percent due to their smoking ban?

"It is inevitable that the city, county and even the state will be smoke-free eventually, but why not make it sooner rather than later?"

Keep St. Louis Free has beaten a smoking ban pushed by the powerful Kurt Odenwald three times. And the St. Louis County Council does not want a smoking ban. Even if St. Louis lawmakers were to pass a smoking ban, Keep St. Louis Free would put an exemption for adult venue back on the ballot.