County approves smoking ban

St. Louis County voters on Tuesday simultaneously made most public places there and in the city smoke-free.

With light turnout — about 20 percent of the county’s 705,000 registered voters — about two-thirds of them favored Proposition N, which, with some exemptions, bans smoking in public places on Jan. 2, 2011.

The ban applies to the city also because the Board of Aldermen last month approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage. The city ban, including exemptions, also takes effect Jan. 2, 2011.

With the statewide ban in Illinois, Tuesday’s vote means that two-thirds of the St. Louis area’s population will live in an area that bans smoking in public places.

Meanwhile, Kirkwood voters overwhelmingly passed a separate ban that is more strict than the county’s, in that it applies to all bar-restaurants. The county’s ban exempts bars that don’t sell a lot of food, but does allow municipalities to enact stricter bans. The county’s exceptions also include casino gaming floors and thecheap smoking lounges at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

News of the passage of the county and Kirkwood bans was greeted with cheers Tuesday night at a rally at the Pi restaurant in Kirkwood.

Barbara Fraser, the St. Louis County Council member who sponsored the county smoking ban bill, said she was thrilled by the results.

“It’s a very important health issue for our county, our region, and the whole state,” said Fraser, D-University City. “As a result of the county’s passage of this legislation, the city ordinance will go into effect and, consequently, the entire state could become smoke-free in public places.”

Charley Gatton, chairman of the County Citizens for Cleaner Air, said, “We’re thrilled. It looks like it’s finally happening.”

But an opponent, Gary Voss, said the ban might kill his bowling center, the West County Lanes in Ellisville.

Voss, executive director of the Greater St. Louis Bowling Proprietors Association, predicted that 10 of the 21 bowling centers in St. Louis County would close.

Smokers would go to competitors in St. Charles or other counties which allow cigarettes online, he said.

The county, he said, “doesn’t care for the mom-and-pop bowling centers” and favors out-of-state casino owners.

Voss predicted that his association would challenge the smoking ban in court. The ban, he said, “is so unfair.”

Bill Hannegan, a leading opponent of smoking bans, said he and his supporters soon will consider whether to challenge the constitutionality of the exemption for casinos gaming floors. He called it “special interest” legislation.

Some Kirkwood bar and restaurant owners who fought the last smoking ban proposal there in 2006 did not wage a campaign this time.

“There was no organized opposition in Kirkwood, as far as I know,” said Jeff Rekart, manager of PJ’s Tavern, which allows smoking, and the next-door Jefferson Grill, which is smoke-free.

Rekart said a countywide ban would be better than a city-by-city one.

SCHOOL BOND ISSUES

Four school districts on Tuesday held bond issue elections, mostly for building renovation.

In the Riverview Gardens School District, voters approved a $15 million bond issue. Voters in the Hillsboro district approved an $18 million bond issue.

In the De Soto district, a $11.5 million bond issue was approved and voters in the Winfield district approved a $5 million issue.

Voters in the Lindbergh School District approved a waiver that will make it easier for the district to enact tax increases.

source: www.stltoday.com

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