Later today, a committee of the Board of Aldermen will continue its hearing on a bill that would extend smoke-free regulations to more workplaces in the City of St. Louis.
The bill’s restrictions would cover bars and restaurants, 80 percent of hotel rooms, and most private clubs. It would not cover tobacco shops, outdoor patios, private homes, or the floor of a casino.
(I support these reasonable compromises because I believe that a-very-good-bill-that-passes is better than a-perfect-bill-that-dies-in-committee. A bill that fails to advance beyond the committee is the same as a bill that is defeated — and is the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing should not be an option.)
Yesterday’s hearings drew both opponents and supporters, with odd alliances forming between those who think the proposed regulations are not restrictive enough and those who want no restrictions at all.
The testimony with which I most agreed was that of Joe Edwards, whose iconic establishments on both sides of the Loop and on Washington Avenue have always set the bar for St. Louis “cool.” Joe said that he sees the days of smoky clubs and bars coming to an end everywhere. His customers, he testified, are younger crowds who complain about the smoke.
That is certainly the case in many other states and foreign countries. It is true locally in Kansas City, Kirksville, and (even?) Ballwin. A new law is being discussed in Clayton.
The bill being considered at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has an emergency clause because it deals with a public health issue. It will be law immediately — which means that it will go into effect as soon as St. Louis County passes the same law. Joe’s businesses on each side of the city limit in the Loop, for example, will not be subject to different regulations nor placed at any competitive disadvantage.
We need a smoke-free ordinance in the City of St. Louis. And I will sign a smoke-free bill and make it the law when it get to my desk.