Dooley signs smoking bill; voters to decide on ban in county

CLAYTON –St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley signed a bill Friday morning that will let voters decide on Nov. 3 whether to ban smoking in most indoor public places.

“I think it is imperative that the people of St. Louis County deserve to be heard at the polls,” Dooley said before signing the bill in his office at the county administration building.

The bill, passed Tuesday night by the County Council, exempts casino floors, the smoking lounges currently in operation at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, and “drinking establishments” whose income from food is 25 percent or less of gross income.

The exemptions prompted some groups, including the American Cancer Society, to urge Dooley to veto the measure.

Dooley, a former smoker, said he recognizes that “this is not a perfect bill.”

“But at the same time, I recognize as well that people should have the opportunity to vote on this important health issue.”

Shortly after, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and Tobacco Free Missouri issued a statement saying they were “extremely disappointed” that Dooley has “decided to send the voters a flawed and weak proposal. ”

“The measure does not deliver what it promises,” the statement said. “It contains 10 different loopholes in addition to other problems with the measure that will make it confusing, difficult to enforce and far from an end to the effort to give everyone in St. Louis County basic health protection from secondhand smoke.”

Stacy Reliford, governmental affairs regional director for the American Cancer Society, said it was too early at this point for the associations to say whether they would work for or against the ballot proposal.

The health associations continued in their statement: “While many view this as a good step in the right direction, from our experiences, a weak ordinance ends up compromising the health of workers, offers false reassurance to the public and stands in the way of future efforts.”

source: www.stltoday.com

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