Subscribe for 99¢
Smoking

O'FALLON, Mo. • A leader of the group that petitioned for an April 5 citywide smoking ban vote says members aren't interested in negotiating a compromise version with the City Council.

"We're very comfortable with what we've got," Craig Boring of Smoke-Free O'Fallon said in an interview after he and others presented their plan to the council Thursday night.

He said it would be "disingenuous" to switch to a different measure after more than 1,900 people signed petitions seeking an election on the group's proposal.

The proposal would ban smoking in most enclosed public places, including all bars and restaurants.

If election officials verify that at least 788 valid signatures of registered voters were submitted, the city charter gives the council the option of allowing the public vote or passing the group's plan into law without an election.

City officials say a third option also is possible — the council could enact a compromise crafted by the council and the petition group. The petition plan could then be withdrawn from the ballot if at least two of the three people who formally started the drive agreed. Boring is among the three.

During Thursday's council work session, Councilmen Bob Howell and Jeff Schwentker suggested that all the parties involved get together to work out something. "We ought to try doing it right," Schwentker said.

More specific was Councilman Mark Perkins, who said the measure should have more detail on enforcement. He said he worried that taxpayers would have to bear that cost.

Boring responded by saying cities with such bans typically have to issue few citations.

The measure calls for city employees to monitor compliance when doing routine inspections and for the city administrator or someone he designates to oversee enforcement.

Smokers violating the ban would face fines of up to $50. Business managers or owners could be fined up to $500 and face a possible suspension or revocation of operating permits.

After the session, Councilman Jim Pepper said in an interview that he would like to exempt bars serving a small amount of food. Such provisions are in a St. Louis ban and a ban in St. Louis County set to take effect Jan. 2.

He also wants to give O'Fallon businesses more time to comply. The petition group's proposal would take effect in June.

During the council session, supporters emphasized that the ban is aimed at protecting public health.

"Secondhand smoke is essentially involuntary smoking," said Wendy Prakop, one petition group member. "The danger is real, the science proves it and the solution is simple."

Pepper argued that the measure would violate the rights of smokers and businesses. He added that tobacco is a legal product and its growers get federal subsidies.

"If you want to stop smoking, stop the subsidies," he said.

Bans already are in effect in Lake Saint Louis, Clayton, Kirkwood, Arnold and Ballwin and in Illinois statewide. New municipal bans will start Jan. 1 in Brentwood and Jan. 2 in Creve Coeur.

Breaking News e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.