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Vote on county smoking ban in hands of executive

By Rachel Lippmann

Clayton, MO – The fate of efforts to allow St. Louis County residents to vote on a smoking ban in November now rests with County Executive Charlie Dooley.

The County Council Tuesday night approved the measure calling for the election on a 4-3 vote. The ban covers most indoor areas - bars and the gaming floors of casinos are the major exemptions.

Those exemptions disappointed the American Cancer Society and other groups. They are pushing Dooley to veto the legislation in order to get a more complete ban approved. But Barbara Fraser, the measure's champion on the Council and a candidate for state Senate, said she hopes the groups realize it's just a beginning.

"Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, all of those states took small steps and then took larger steps when they had a mass of people who could support clean air," she said.

A local union that represents restaurant workers also opposes the measure, as do local libertarian groups. The strange bedfellows, make for a formidable force in an election, said Bill Hannegan, who runs the libertarian-leaning blog "Keep St. Louis Free."

"That's one thing our group is good at, is finding out who our real friends are and fightinhg with them, so I think we'll be effective," he said. Hannegan is also leading the fight against a city smoking ban.

Hannegan also said the November 3rd election date will help opponents. That's the same day as a special election to fill the state House seat vacated by former state Representative Steve Brown's resignation.

"The average person will be against this," Hannegan said. "It's the special voter, the hardcore voter, who votes every time who will be more likely to vote in favor of a smoking ban."