Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Exemption Added to St. Louis City Smoking Ban

The Health and Human Services Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen added an amendment to the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 that allows smoking in bars 1500 square feet or less that do not admit minors. The exemption lasts for only five years.

Even with this new exemption, the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act is far more stringent than the proposed County ban. The County ban will allow smoking in almost any establishment of any size willing to claim that less than 25 percent of its gross revenues are food sales and has no sunset provision. In contrast, the proposed City ban exempts only bars that are smaller than 1500 ft. and then only for 5 years This would put the more greatly threatened St. Louis City bar industry at a competitive disadvantage with St. Louis County.

If a smoking ban has to be passed, why not mirror the County law as Alderman Conway proposed yesterday or else exempt age restricted establishments as the Tennessee smoking ban does? Such an exemption would be keep minors out of venues that allow smoking, whereas the County ordinance does not. Plus it would not favor one type of business over another as the County ordinance does, and so would not be subject to the legal challenge the County ordinance will likely face if it passes. Exempting “over 21″ or “over 18″ venues would greatly minimize any business loss a smoking ban would bring to St. Louis City.

If this law passes in its current form, we'll have to challenge it in court or put reasonable exemptions on the ballot.