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'Hullabaloo' is Back: Countywide Smoking Ban Proposal to be Reintroduced

Two ordinances would allow voters to vote separately on banning smoking in public places and allowing an exemption for casinos.

St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin (R-1st District) will introduce two bills on a countywide smoking ban. One would place a countywide smoking ban on the ballot. If passed by voters, it would ban smoking in all public places with a few exemptions.

The ordinances will be introduced at the county council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the .

“It’s a simple issue really,” said Cronin. “All it does is let the voters decide whether or not people have to step outside to smoke in a bar or restaurant.”

The second bill would allow voters to choose if they want to exempt casinos from the smoking ban. Ameristar Casino is the only casino in St. Charles County, thus the only one affected.

Last spring, Cronin introduced a smoking ban bill that the county council passed by one vote. However, County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed the proposed law.

Ehlmann said that since the smoking was being addressed as a health issue, it should not include exemptions for casinos, cigar bars and hotel rooms. He also objected to “picking winners and losers” by allowing a casino to have smoking but not bars and restaurants.

Cronin said he worked with Ehlmann to address those issues.

He said most objections came from those who wanted an exemption for the casinos because they were worried about the economic impact on St. Charles. Instead of going to Ameristar, they argued that people would go to Harrah’s Casino, has a smoking exemption and is just across the river in St. Louis County.

“By splitting that out, I’m trying to appease both sides,” he said.

It’s not appeasing everyone on the council, however.

“Talk about picking winners and losers, what about the bars and restaurants out there?” said Council Chairman Joe Brazil (R-2nd District) of Defiance. “Do they get their own line item to vote on? Why give casinos that option?”

Brazil said people have choices on where they want to eat, drink and work, and he doesn't like telling business owners how to run their own businesses.

He also said a smoking ban would hurt veterans' organizations. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts are considered private clubs but often do employ bartenders, waitresses, cooks and managers.

“You’re going to tell these groups of people who fought for our country that they can’t smoke a cigar or cigarette in their own club? You’re going to shut down the VFW in New Melle?

“It’s not right,” Brazil said.

The new bill exempts only private clubs without employees, up to 20 percent of the rooms in a hotel and license medical research facilities studying the effects of medicine or treatments where smoking is a factor.

“I think it will make it through the county executive,” Cronin said. “As far as the council goes, it’s hard to predict how the vote will go.”

“It’s a simple issue, but it’s a hellaballoo before it’s passed,” Cronin said. “All these laws are a big deal before they pass, but when they become law, like in O’Fallon, it’s no big deal. Clayton has one, and the bars and restaurants and people are used to it.”

The city of O’Fallon voters approved a citywide smoking ban last April.

Both ordinances can be read in their entirety by clicking on the files listed in the photo section.

Phil Konigsberg November 13, 2011 at 07:14 AM
There should be no exemptions. Why should someone who works at a casino be given any less health and safety considerations than any other worker?
Jeff Violet November 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM
The sword cuts two ways... as a VFW life member when I attend my club events the smoke is unbelievable! I would love to go to the club and be able to breath clean air. Smoking bans should have NO exemptions!

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