Columbia’s smoking ban: the debate continues…

Get ready for another round of talks on Columbia’s smoking ban.

Business owners Joe Thiel of Otto’s Corner Bar and Grill and Betty Hamilton of Tiger Club have filed a petition with the City Clerk’s office to repeal the ban.

More important than perhaps the action itself, the petition could bring about a trip to the polls for Columbia’s voters.

The Clerk’s office requires 2,580 signatures for the petition to be certified. If the petition is accepted, meaning all the signatures are proven valid, then the City Council must either repeal the ban or send the issue to the voters.

City Manager Bill Watkins said the ordinance would probably be introduced on the Nov. 19 agenda, with a vote possible in April.

Thiel cites business losses as his primary motivations for repealing the ban.

“I’ve seen a 35 percent drop in my business this October compared to last year,” Thiel said. “That’s pretty significant. We’ve already seen lots of places close because of it. I understand there are a lot more layers to the onion. But to sit there and add one more layer of grief for business owners?”

According to Thiel, eight Columbia businesses have closed which cited the ban as a reason. The list includes Columbia Billards, Rack ‘N’ Roll, Lou’s Palace, Bull Pen Cafe, Garfield’s Restaurant and Pub, Trattoria Strada Nova, Old Chicago, and Classy’s Restaurant.

In another interesting twist, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala were not on Council when the decision was made last October. Former Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless voted against the ban, while former Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton voted for it. Wade could not be reached for comment. Skala, in a previous Missourian report, said he would uphold the ban.

For more information on the smoking ban, check out this story, and others on the Missourian website.

How do you feel about the smoking ban? Is it a breach of personal choice, or, is it good policy for protecting pubic health? Do you feel it is to blame for some of the city’s lost business?

4 Responses

  1. I am personally against smoking bans, although I am not a smoker myself. Smoking bans invade a person’s right for freedom of choice. If a person wants to smoke at dinner they should be able to without getting fined for it. That is why they have smoking and non-smoking sections in a restaurant. I agree that a public place should have a choice to be smoking or non, but I don’t think they should all have to be. As a non-smoker as long as I have a choice of being in a non-smoking area, I do not have a problem with smoking in public.

  2. Jerry Wade will vote to sustain the smoking ban – I put this question to him and the three other city council candidates at a League of Women Voters’ candidate forum earlier this year. All four supported the smoking ban to some degree.

  3. Just wanted to share a letter to the editor we received in response to this story:

    “Your article in the Sunday Missourian about the smoking ban petition raises questions: If customers in bars are off by 35%, where are those customers? Do they go to a package store, buy a bottle, and sit in their cars to smoke and drink? I doubt it. I really wonder where they are. Perhaps with every place smoke-free, the playing field is level for the first time, and they choose to go to nicer places to drink. What about billiard halls? Did all those former customers go out and buy $4000 “pool tables” for their homes? I doubt it. If they did, I wish I’d opened a local “pool table” franchise – I’d be rich. I really wonder where they are, too.

    Mr. Skala said it best: “it’s a public health issue, not a private property issue”. I was here in Columbia to read this because I stayed in a smoke-free hotel, and ate in smoke-free restaurants. Were the ban not in force, I’d have driven on through until I got to a more enlightened city. I’ve had cancer once, and it’s no picnic. I don’t want to get it again. The people of Columbia need to pull together and upold the ban.”

    Dwight D. Gatwood, Ph.D.
    Professor of Music
    The University of Tennessee at Martin

  4. Please let me suggest an alternative to the smoking ban. The Columbia City Council could simply require venues that allow smoking to purify their air 15 times or more per hour thru both HEPA and electronic air filtration machines separate from the establishment’s regular HVAC system as air filtration engineers recommend. Such air purification would not only
    remove tobacco smoke, but also viruses, bacteria, chemicals, pollen, dust, mold, fungi and, most importantly, radon decay products, which the EPA
    claims causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, seven times more than secondhand smoke is reputed to cause. Commercial and industrial air
    filtration machines are affordable and readily available. Venues that allow smoking could be retrofitted without expensive ductwork or other
    construction costs. Please click here to see two HEPA and two electronic air filtration machines. (These technologies can be combined into a
    single unit.) These are the same machines that currently protect Missouri welders from much more dangerous smoke to OSHA safety standards, they can
    also protect bartenders from stray tobacco smoke.

    The CDC even recommends that such air filtration systems be installed in buildings as a way of protecting workers from airborne chemical, biological or chemical attacks:

    Furthermore, an air filtration solution to the secondhand smoke problem would not displace smokers to poorly ventilated private homes and cars.
    Research has shown that this displacement actually causes the secondhand smoke exposure levels of children to rise in communities in which a smoking ban has been imposed.

    I am very concerned for business owners who have sunk their life’s savings into their establishments. Smoking bans have hurt and killed too many small businesses in Columbia so far. But if the Columbia City Council would bring truly clean air to smoking establishments thru contemporary air filtration technology, business in these establishments would not be hurt but would instead flourish as new patrons arrive who were kept away by the previous smoke.

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