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Smoking ban wins big in St. Louis County

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Most public places in St. Louis city and County will be going smoke-free in 2011.

Unofficial results from Tuesday's election show the St. Louis County ban passing with nearly 2/3 of the vote. That means the city ban approved last Friday by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will go into effect as well.

Both bans exempt casinos. Small bars are totally exempt in St. Louis County, and get a five-year reprieve in the city. The smoking lounges at Lambert Airport are exempt as well.

The exemptions made no one happy. A supporter of the ban, Martin Pion, the president of the Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution, called them unfortunate, and said the county should now look at tightening the language in its ban.

"There's broad and strong public support for this measure," he said. "I see this as giving them their marching orders, really." However Pion said protecting nearly 1.3 million people from the dangers of secondhand smoke is no small feat.

Marty Ginsburg, the owner of the Sports Page Bar and Grill in Chesterfield and a leading opponent of the measure, said he expected the result.

"It just wasn't a fair bill, and I thought if we could have gotten that word out to more and more people, which I tried to do with my customers when they asked me why I would vote no. But, life goes on," he said.

Voters in Kirkwood also approved their own smoking ban, which is stricter than the countywide ban. Nearly two dozen municipalities now have some form of the legislation.

Also on Tuesday, voters in St. Louis County approved a sales tax increase that will help upgrade the region's emergency communications system.

And voters in parts of the city and county picked replacements for two Democratic state lawmakers ousted from office in a corruption scandal.

In the 73rd House District, which covers parts of Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Clayton, Brentwood and Webster Groves, Democrat Stacey Newman defeated Republican Daniel O'Sullivan by more than 1,300 votes. Newman will fill the seat of former State Representative Steve Brown, who defeated her in the August 2008 primary.

In the 4th Senate District, which covers the western half of St. Louis City, Democrat Joe Keaveny ran unopposed to fill the seat of former state Senator Jeff Smith.

Smith and Brown resigned in August after pleading guilty to federal charges in connection with Smith's run for Congress in 2004.

Turnout in Tuesday's election was about 20 percent in the county. It was anemic in the city - 5.2 percent