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Smoking Ban: Week 2, and Everyone's Still Confused

Vollmer.JPG
With 23 percent food sales, Milo's clears the exemption threshold, but Alderman Joe Vollmer might still adopt a no-smoking policy to keep families coming in.
​As expected, one week into the smoking ban, and the ashtray wars are on! Yesterday, local blogger/gadfly/development activist Steve Patterson launched a grenade at one particular bar owner who he thought might be gaming the system. That bar owner? None other than Alderman Joe Vollmer, who for 22 years has run a joint on the Hill called Milo's.

Patterson measured the outside of the lawmaker's building using the website Geo St. Loius and then took a look at his menu. His initial determination was that Vollmer was in violation of his own law. "No way does Milo's meet the criteria for an exemption," hypothesized Patterson on his blog. Comments began pouring in.

Well, it turns out that Vollmer did have his building inspected, and he does meet the city's square-footage and food-sales specs, which Patterson now acknowledges after speaking to the alderman later in the day. (His blog has since been updated.)

We checked in with Vollmer, who says he has no hard feelings toward Patterson. The new law, he says, has everyone confused. For instance, do bar snacks constitute as food? What if a bar meets food-sales criteria one year, but not the next? What happens when a kid eating in an outdoor garden needs to take a leak -- is he allowed inside? And will State law eventually override our little municipal ordinance, which it has the power to do?

All these issues need to be debated, says Vollmer, as he scans the crowd of patrons at his business. (Roughly half of them are smoking.) Despite the business that smoking has given him over the years, the lawmaker might decide to change his policy. Earlier in the day, he had to turn down a family of regulars whose party included kids. "To tell regulars they can't come in -- that takes a different mentality," says Vollmer, shaking his head. "Our law should mirror the county if we're going to move forward as one area and keep the attention of tourists," he says. (The city bans people under 21 years old from entering smoking bars; the county does not.)

As of now, city bars measuring less than 2,000 square feet are in the exemption club, as long as their food sales do not exceed 25 percent of their overall sales. Simple, right? Well, not so much. As we reported last week, bar owners who don't meet criteria can continue to skirt the rules until enough complaints drive the Department of Health to their doorstep.

The situation isn't helped by the fact that there still isn't a public list that makes it clear which bars are exempt. Last week, we mentioned that the Department of Health planned to post on its website such a list as soon as possible. That still hasn't happened.

We checked in with the city again to see what gives. Kara Bowlin, Mayor Slay's press secretary, explains that no bar can officially be labeled exempt until the Department of Health squares its application data with the city's Excise Division, which tallies food and drink sales. That takes time, she says, and she cannot give a timetable for the process to be completed.

Until then, bar owners should watch out for Patterson, who has taken it upon himself to assume a vigilante's role. "Much of the enforcement of the smoke-free laws in our region depend on concerned citizens speaking up when they see violations," he tells Daily RFT. "We are still early into the new law, so I expect some businesses to see how much they can get away with. This is fundamentally unfair to those businesses that are in full compliance.

"Seeking compliance isn't going to make me popular with some business owners, but popularity is not my goal."

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12 comments
Baja K
Baja K

"Concerns" about health expressed by anti-smoking officials are certifiably bogus.

- Officials refuse to demand labeling of what's in typical cigarettes, and they refuse to, on their own, humanely inform and warn the public about even the deadliest non-tobacco cigarette adulterants.

- They do nothing to prohibit or even, again, warn about toxic and cancer-causing residues of any of about 450 pesticides registered for tobacco use.

- They ignore the dioxins in smoke that come from chlorine pesticide residues and the Still Legal chlorine-bleached cigarette paper. [Top pharmaceutical firms---"health" care businesses---make many tobacco pesticides. Pharm CEOs are never brought to "smoking" hearings to testify and explain.)

- They ignore that the USA classifies dioxin as a Known Human Carcinogen, that the USA signed a global treaty to phase out dioxin and 11 other worst-of-the-worst industrial pollutants, AND that dioxins are especially harmful to children, pregnant women, and fetuses. They forget Agent Orange and Love Canal and other notable dioxin disasters.

- They ignore that the combo of chlorine with the added ammonia is especially toxic....as anyone reading cleanser warning labels knows.

- They ignore that there are cancer-causing levels of radiation (PO-210) in typical cigarettes due to the Still Legal (!) use of certain phosphate fertilizers.

- They do or say nothing about the hosts of added sweets, flavorings, aromas, and soothing substances that make typical cigarettes so appealing to young people.

- They express no concern, and offer no warning, that ,of the well-over-1000 non-tobacco cigarette additives (not all in one cig, of course), NONE have been tested for safety in this use. They do not care that their constituents are being treated as Guinea Pigs...experimented upon without Informed Consent.

- Officials, for generations, have ignored and failed to warn about added Burn Accelerants despite numerous fires, injuries, and deaths.

- They often use EPA material about “environmental tobacco smoke” to justify smoke bans despite the fact that that EPA material was thrown out of a Federal Court years ago as fraudulent. The EPA has not yet corrected its errors.

- Further, they persist in using the cigarette industry’s “tobacco” language despite another fact---that any number of low-end brands may contain no tobacco at all, but, instead, fake tobacco made in Patented ways to resemble tobacco…with measured shot of nicotine added, of course. One cannot get Tobacco Smoke from such products.

- And, they probably play golf with, and accept campaign money from, the industries responsible for the pesticides, chlorine, paper, fertilizers, pharmaceutical additives, etc, etc.,...and their insurers and investors. [Top health insurers are multi-Billion dollar investors in top Cigarette Manufacturers.]

Those officials and those industries, naturally, prefer to blame the deadly effects of typical Pesticide Pegs (or Dioxin Dowels?) on the victims, and on the tobacco plant...which, in unadulterated form, does not seem to have been studied yet for actual or probable harms. How something can be banned that has not been tested is a question. That is...they "test" Pesticide Pegs and then conclude that "tobacco did it". Any researchers who do that should have their licenses revoked, with prejudice. If they tested plain tobacco they might find the risks acceptable---no need for bans---but that would not serve the interests of those who wish to remove natural, unpatented, public-domain tobacco from competition with many patented synthesized pharmaceutical products.

To blame "smoking" (without clarity about WHAT is being smoked) is to blame the behavior of duped, secretly-poisoned, insufficiently-warned, unprotected, and uncompensated victims for the crimes of others. The cold cruelty of that is astonishing.

Blaming, and prosecuting, those who adulterated typical products with all that stuff, and who in government allowed it, is the proper path....that is, if there is to be any trace of legitimate science, medicine, and law.

See http://fauxbacco.blogspot.com for many references.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

Under the law, couldn't Milo's allow in minors when accompanied by a parent or guardian, in the same way a minor can drink in a bar with his parents?

BEACHBUM0616
BEACHBUM0616

I feel that it should be up to the owner's themselves.. Are far as having children in to the Business that should be up to the parents. I feel that this is going to way to far. Milos is a family place where family's go eat before and after church and and before weddings and after. They also have a ton of tourist that stop in with thier family's to get a snack while walking the hill shopping on the weekends.. They shouldn't be turned away..Dont they see that business's are having a hard enough time as it is with our economy.. REALLY because they have children. What about the Garden outside.. Dont you only have to be 18 to buy them but have to be 21 to enter a business that has smoking I feel that is crazy..

Chris
Chris

"This is fundamentally unfair to those businesses that are in full compliance."

You don't have to agree on anything else he says, but you can't dispute that it's wrong that businesses who break the law could benefit financially at the loss of those following the law.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

Steve should do his vigilante enforcement campaign systematically. Start with the Northside clubs and work south. Imagine Steve cruising the Crocodile Lounge and the Zodiac Lounge, busting smokers with his cell phone blazing.

Codeboi
Codeboi

Why don't we just show some spunk and ban it completely so there is no confusion.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

The St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 never mentions 25 percent food sales. That is something Health Director Pam Walker added to the law. Any establishment under 2000 square feet that sells more alcohol than food should consider themselves exempt.

Dj_gamache
Dj_gamache

So, basically, everybody just continue to light up. The law is a window dressing of appeasement to people who want functional lungs in their later years.

find4more
find4more

ROTFLMAO. This conjures an irresistibly funny image of Steve Patterson as our own era's Carrie Nation, attacking intemperance wherever found with digital jeremiads. History will remember you, Steve, for the FANTASTIC crank and showman you are. (I suppose Joseph McCarthy had his laugh value, too.)

Mntvernon
Mntvernon

Yeah, to quote Stevie, "The last thing I want is to argue with a proprietor about the law, I want them to know the law so that if a fellow customer lights up inside the owner knows they need to ask them to take it outside or face fines."Sounds like another less obnoxious 'Hall Monitor', Eric Cartman, who'd said, "RESPECT M-EYE AUTH-THOR-IT-TYE!"Sadly, we may have an incident that'll make the Bass Pro Christmas Eve in St. Charles look like a kitty fight soon.

J. Brad Hicks
J. Brad Hicks

Actually, it looks like it was worse than that: it was a deliberately loophole-filled ordinance, passed only to trick the County into activating their less ambiguous, more effective ordinance, in hope of luring all the smokers kicked out of County bars down into the City.

Bill Hannegan
Bill Hannegan

The County ordinance is much less strict than the City's. The City bans smoking in private clubs, VFW Halls and work vehicles the County's law doesn't touch.

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