County to Discuss Proposal to Put Smoking Ban on 2012 Ballot
Some council members oppose the vote because they believe the ban violates property owner rights.
One County Councilman wants to see a smoking ban proposal go before voters in 2012, but hasn't been able to discuss the issue with the rest of the council.
Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1, said he submitted a bill about a month ago that would ban smoking in most public places, but the bill has not been placed on the County Council agenda. The bill would put the smoking ban proposal on the Aug. 7, 2012 ballot.
“That’s going to brought up at this meeting,” Cronin said.
The work session begins at 5 p.m. Monday in the St. Charles County Executive Building on Third Street.
When asked if he has enough support to pass the bill, Cronin said, “I guess we’ll see on Monday.”
Council Chairman Joe Brazil, R-District 2, said he opposes bringing the issue to a vote.
“I’m still against it,” Brazil said. “In Cronin’s ordinance, he excludes the casino, and that’s totally unfair.”
Cronin said the exemption applies only to the gambling floor where gambling takes place. It does not include bars and restaurants within a casino.
“Supposedly, when Illinois banned smoking from casinos, it cost them about $800 million in lost revenue to St. Louis County,” Cronin said. “People are afraid if there’s a smoking ban in the St. Charles casino, people will go across the river to gamble. There’s 1,600 jobs in that casino.”
Casinos in St. Louis County are exempt from the smoking ban.
“There was not enough support on the council to get this done without an exemption for the casino,” Cronin said.
The bill, as it currently is written, also allows exemptions for private clubs with no paid employees, tobacco stores or cigar bars.
A cigar bar is defined as a place that generates 60 percent of its revenue from selling alcohol and 25 percent of its revenue from cigar sales; has a humidor on the premises, and is not otherwise subject to the ban.
Popular, not right
Brazil said just because a smoking ban is popular does not make it the right thing to do. He compared the situation to using eminent domain on a person’s farmland to build an airport.
“If you put it to a vote, maybe 70 percent of the people would agree,” Brazil said. “That doesn’t make it right.”
Councilman Paul Wynn, R- District 4, agrees with Brazil, and likewise opposes a popular vote on the issue.
Wynn, of O’Fallon, opposes the ban – and a vote on the ban – because he believes smoking bans deprive property owners of their rights to allow a legal activity in their establishment.
He acknowledges his stand will not be popular in his district, as nearly 70 percent of O’Fallon voters approved the citywide smoking ban on April 5.
“I would rather have them ban smoking all together, make it illegal,” said Wynn, of O’Fallon. “Of course, that’s not going to happen because government makes too much money from it.”
Brazil nor Wynn do not smoke. Both said they hate smoking and hate sitting in restaurants near smokers.
Wynn said people can choose stay out of restaurants and bars or get different jobs if they are bothered by smoke.
Cronin said the county is able to make decisions based on health issues for its citizens.
“This is a health issue,” he said.