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St. Louis County voters ready to decide smoking issue

By Bill Raack, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – Voters in St. Louis County will go to the polls Tuesday and decide whether most bars and restaurants should go smoke-free.

The indoor smoking ban measure - Proposition N - would cover most public venues with the exception of casinos. Jon Rand, an owner of Discount Smoke Shop based in St. Louis, says if it is approved, money usually spent in St. Louis County will go elsewhere.

"It's incredible to me that the county council would put this on the ballot without doing an economic impact study on just what the effects would be and who's going to be hurt - big time - are these small neighborhood bars, that sort of thing," Rand said.

Opponents also say bars and restaurants should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking. Martin Pion, president of Missouri GASP -- an anti-indoor smoking pollution group - says no, they shouldn't,

"No more than you should allow business owners to have flaky asbestos ceiling tiles or lead paint on their windows and doors. I mean this is pure and simple a health issue."

Pion says he's disappointed that casinos are excluded from the smoking ban but he says they could go back to the county council later to address the law's exemptions.

The results of tomorrow's vote will also impact what happens in St. Louis City. Aldermen approved a bill last month that would put a smoking ban in place there, as well, if the county proposition is successful.