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Joe Cronin, the Republican trying to unseat St. Charles County Councilwoman Cheryl Hibbeler in the Nov. 2 election, doesn't oppose Hibbeler's push for a countywide vote next year on banning smoking in indoor public places.

"It's probably going to be best to put before voters," Cronin said Tuesday.

However, Cronin disagrees with Hibbeler on whether actually enacting the ban would be good policy. He opposes the idea, while she supports it.

"It's just another infringement on a lot of folks' rights," said Cronin, a former St. Paul alderman who also ran for the 1st District council seat in 2006.

Hibbeler, an O'Fallon Democrat, joined various health care professionals Tuesday at a news conference to announce the results of a poll indicating that more than two-thirds of voters would approve a ban. 

The poll was paid for by the American Cancer Society and another nonprofit group. The results will be used to try to convince the council to put the issue on the ballot.

Cronin asserted that if the council does put a ban on the ballot, it  should not include any exemptions.

In contrast, bans set to go into effect next year in St. Louis and St. Louis County exempt casinos and some bars.

Hibbeler previously had suggested exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles from any St. Charles County ban - as a possible compromise and out of fear that Ameristar could finance an ad campaign against a ban. 

On Wednesday, however, she said the lopsided pro-ban result of the poll "makes me feel there's less to be concerned about a well-funded campaign against the proposal."

She said she now would "feel more comfortable" with putting an across-the-board ban on the ballot.

Ideally, she said, "it doesn't make sense" to exempt any establishment in light of supporters' view that "secondhand smoke is a danger and a health hazard to everyone." 

The 400 registered voters contacted in the random telephone poll were asked whether they supported a ban on smoking in all indoor public places "including workplaces, public buildings, bars, restaurants and casinos." 

Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the poll sample, reflecting St. Charles County's GOP tilt in elections in recent decades.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they were mostly or leaning Republican; 27 percent mostly or leaning Democratic; and 24 percent were noncommital about a party affiliation.

The polling firm said GOP respondents were slightly more supportive of the smoking ban idea, with 72 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democarts in favor.

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