People Ban: MO Fulton

Missouri Fulton Update

Battle begins on Fulton public smoking ban

Jan 14, 2010
By DON NORFLEET, The Fulton Sun

The opening battle of what appears to be a long war began Tuesday night between supporters and opponents of a proposed ban on smoking in Fulton public places.

The opening shot was fired during a public hearing prior to a Fulton City Council meeting when both sides discussed their views on a model ordinance suggested by the Fresh Air Fulton Coalition, a group supporting a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in public places.

Representatives of the Fulton Hospitality Association appeared in behalf of local businesses and organizations that are opposed to the proposal.

Here are both sides of the argument, pro and con, as outlined at Tuesday night’s meeting:

For smoking ban

Secondhand smoke is dangerous to non-smokers who need to be protected and this health issue can be achieved in Fulton only by passing a city ordinance banning smoking in all public places.

That’s the main argument presented Tuesday to the Fulton City Council by Ryan Krull of Fulton, a spokesman for Fresh Air Fulton Coalition.
The coalition has offered a model smoking ban ordinance to the council and urged its adoption.

Krull is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri with a Master’s degree in Public Health. He is community health project coordinator at Westminster College.

Krull said the council could modify the ordinance to suit their needs but he asked that the main thrust of it remain intact in order to protect the public.

“Fresh Air Fulton,” Krull said, “is a group of local citizens coming together to support a healthier Fulton community by supporting smoke-free indoor policies and helping to protect those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.”

Krull asked the council to approve a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that would include all workplaces, bars and restaurants.

“We are in no way pursuing the goal of banning the right to smoke. We are pursuing the right to breathe fresh, non-hazardous air,” Krull said.

Krull said the American Cancer Society has concluded that second-hand smoke is known to cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. He said secondhand smoke has been designated as a Class A Carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Toxicology Program. “There is no safe level of exposure to any Class A carcinogen,” Krull said.

Krull said the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has concluded that secondhand smoke is an occupational carcinogen just like mercury, lead or asbestos.

“If we found asbestos in the local schools or business they would be asked to shut down their operations until protected professionals came in and removed the material. How is this exposure to secondhand smoke any different? Secondhand smoke exposure is clearly a danger to everyone who breathes it into their lungs,” Krull said.

Krull said nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Krull said a 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General concluded there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. He said communities that have implemented clean indoor air policies have seen substantial decreases in heart attacks and asthma attacks, according to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

He said the argument that air filters can control secondhand smoke is not valid. Krull said studies have shown that ventilation is expensive and is not effective in removing dangerous toxins found in secondhand smoke.

Krull said he moved to Fulton this past summer and visited a bar with a large amount of secondhand smoke. He said a pregnant waitress was working at the bar.

“Should she have to choose between her paycheck and her health?” Krull asked.

Krull said studies show smoke-free policies and regulations do not have a negative impact on business revenues. He noted that small cities such as Kirksville, Chillicothe and Maryville and large cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Independence and Columbia all have adopted smoke-free policies.

Krull said 32 states along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have state or commonwealth laws in effect that require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars. This includes Midwestern states such as Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. He said even North Carolina, the nation’s largest tobacco producer, a few days ago enacted a statewide smoke-free policy for restaurants and bars. He said another 3,000 cities in the United States have local laws in effect that restrict where smoking is allowed.

Amanda Stevens, wellness program coordinator at Westminster College, told the council several new restaurants and bars have opened in Columbia since that city approved a smoking ban in public places.

Her job at Westminster is to implement programs to promote and educate students and staff on making healthy choices.

“People still will go out and have fun, even if they have to step outside a few moments to enjoy their cigarettes. This is a progressive move that our town can take,” Stevens said. She said the debate over the validity of the science surrounding secondhand smoke has been decided nationwide in behalf of smoking bans.

She said the group has secured about 600 signatures from Fulton residents in favor of a ban on smoking in public places.

Stevens said in May the group will make a six-month assessment of its efforts to encourage people to stop smoking and its efforts to persuade businesses to adopt voluntary smoking bans.

Dr. Robert Pierce, a family physician in Fulton, noted that opponents during Tuesday’s discussion had challenged the validity of research showing dangers of secondhand smoke.

Pierce said “there are no reputable scientists or health care providers that question the relationship between secondhand smoke and illnesses. Sudden death syndrome, asthma, myocardio infarction, the list goes on and on. That science is solid. If you want data, we can certainly give you that data. None of us as health care providers have any questions about that relationship,” Pierce said.

Against smoking ban

Opponents of proposed Fulton city ordinance banning smoking in public places believe it is not a serious health issue and it will force many Fulton restaurants and bars to close.

Tom Maupin, chairman of the Fulton Hospitality Association, told the Fulton City Council Tuesday during a work session public hearing that similar ordinances in neighboring communities “have been directly linked to forced closures of some hospitality businesses.” It also has caused other firms to relocate to other cities without smoking bans, he said.

Maupin warned the council that such an ordinance would lower city tax revenues and drive local citizens to other cities for dining.

Maupin said the ordinance would come at an especially difficult time because the current economic downturn already has cut business substantially for many restaurants and bars.

“We feel the decision whether a business should be smoke-free should be made by the business owner or manager,” Maupin said.

Maupin said the city of New York banned smoking and then eliminated trans fats on restaurant menus. “Now they are going after salt. Where does it stop?” he asked.

“I look at this not so much as a ban on smoking but an erosion of freedom. I and many others like me have gone overseas and defended the rights and freedoms of this great nation. I didn’t go to war to have our freedoms yanked away from us. I am the manager of the local VFW Club. The VFW Club, along with many other organizations and businesses in these current economic times, is having a difficult time keeping our doors open. Ninety percent of the people who visit the canteen of the VFW are smokers. If you pass this law, we will have to close our doors. We are the only agency in this county that loans without any cost ambulatory equipment to any individual who needs it. That includes wheelchairs and walkers. If you pass this ordinance, this service will cease,” Maupin said.

Maupin said within 12 months of passage of the smoking ban in Columbia, 24 restaurants and bars were forced to close because of a lack of business.

One member of the Fulton City Council, Steven Moore, noted there were at least a half dozen restaurant and bar owners present in the council chambers. “It must be of interest to them because it is highly unusual for them to show up at council meetings,” Moore said. Moore is the owner and operator of Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Pub, 1205 South Business 54 in Fulton.

Gary Nolan, national director for Citizens Freedom Alliance, a group that fights for property rights, challenged proponents to a debate on the issue of whether secondhand smoke is harmful.

“Instead of making a brief presentation, let’s have a real honest debate on this subject,” Nolan said.

“The American Cancer Society did the largest study ever and concluded that there is no connection between cancer or heart disease and secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization did a study as well.”

“There are several studies by reputable scientists who argue that there is no correlation between secondhand smoke and heart disease or cancer,” Nolan said.

“It is an affront to the property rights of restaurant and bar owners to pass a smoking ban. It is their property and they should be making that decision,” Nolan said.

Nolan said a federal anti-tobacco judge has ruled that the EPA’s material was fraudulent. The EPA, he said, was exposed for cooking the books. He said the judge’s decision was overturned on a jurisdictional technicality. Nobody questioned his judgment on his ruling, Nolan said.

In 1997 OSHA officials reported they could not detect carcinogens in secondhand smoke, Nolan said.

Nolan said most of the false studies on secondhand smoke are sponsored by Johnson & Johnson or the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

“What’s going on here is a battle for a nicotine delivery system and Johnson & Johnson has a nicotine delivery system. We have all heard of Nicorette gum and other nicotine products.

Nolan said efforts to ban smoking in many cities around the nation are funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

“We have an opportunity to have an honest debate on whether this secondhand smoke data is legitimate,” Nolan said.

Nolan said many young women with children work in the hospitality industry and would lose their jobs if a smoking ban is imposed.

He said the decision of whether to go into a restaurant or bar with or without smoking should be a decision of the individual. “Allow them to continue to have a choice,” Nolan said.

A Libertarian Party member, Nolan currently is a talk show host on The Eagle 93.9, KSSZ-FM in Columbia. At one time he hosted two nationally-syndicated radio shows from Washington, D.C. on the Radio America Network. He also has made more than 30 appearances on national television, including ABC’s “World News Tonight,” CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

Marilyn Bates, owner of the Southside Diner in Fulton, told members of the Fulton City Council that 90 percent of her customers smoke.

“They have flat told me that if Fulton bans smoking, they will stop coming to our restaurant. What is this going to do to our town. Has anybody bothered to study what has happened in Columbia?” Bates asked.

She said 24 bars and restaurants have closed since the smoking ban in Columbia.

“I was told that the city of Columbia’s revenue is down 15 percent. Can the city of Fulton stand a 15 percent drop in revenue? There are already restaurants in Fulton that do not permit smoking. Let the people make a choice if they want non-smoking or not. If they don’t want to come to a restaurant that allows smoking they have other places to go. Leave us alone and let people have smoking restaurants if they want them. Give the people a choice. This is the United States. We are supposed to have freedom,” Bates said.

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