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LETTER: It's time to snuff out smoking in the Capitol

Monday, January 3, 2011 | 12:36 p.m. CST

A fresh batch of Missouri legislators will convene shortly for the start of the new legislative session. One of their surprises may be the fact that, despite all other state buildings being smoke-free, legislators have exempted themselves from that requirement in the state Capitol.

Some years ago, Missouri GASP, Group Against Smoking Pollution Inc., assisted Ms. Vivian Dietemann, a smoke-sensitive asthmatic from St. Louis, in filing an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's office regarding smoking in the Capitol. At the time, smoking was allowed throughout the building, the only exception being the visitor's gallery overlooking the House chamber. Ms. Dietemann's efforts in late 1993 and early 1994 led to a substantial reduction in where smoking was allowed.

But today, senators and some House members are still permitted to smoke in their offices, as well as a members' lounge behind the House chamber, and there is a smoking area in the underground garage.

Sweeping smoke-free air ordinances became effective in St. Louis City and County on Jan. 2, joining many other Missouri communities. A smoke-free air initiative petition was recently approved by Jefferson City voters, so now you can't smoke in a local bar, but you can smoke in the state Capitol.

What kind of example is the Missouri Capitol setting to young children who visit the building when they smell secondhand smoke coming from legislators' offices? What does this say about legislators themselves who allow this to continue?

It really is time for the "Smoke-Me" Capitol to go smoke-free.

Martin Pion is president of Missouri GASP, Group Against Smoking Pollution Inc., which is based in St. Louis.


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Comments

Russell Perkins January 3, 2011 | 12:42 p.m.

Do what we say, not what we do. We are holier than thou.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 3, 2011 | 12:48 p.m.

I could understand someone being incensed about that.

(Report Comment)
Melissa Blank January 4, 2011 | 1:24 p.m.

As a former tour guide, and an asthma sufferer, I can attest to the "we can do as we please" mentality. As a former state employee, I was unable to perfom my job at times because the smoke was so bad. When I tried to file a complaint, I was told no one would do anything about it, for fear the legislators would retaliate! I saw several children on the tours have asthma attacks as well!

What kind of lesson are we teaching out children, indeed???

(Report Comment)
Paul Austin January 4, 2011 | 1:29 p.m.

Gee, Mr. Pion,
Nice to now you can lecture others to your perverted sense of morality.
Perhaps you an add in your letter a link to page 6 of your noxious online rag where they'd see your Exec Dooley accepting 7.5 million:
http://mogasp.files.wordpress.com/2010/0...
of Obamacare stimulus money to educate us yokels. Time to call Pam Walker for your 'thirty pieces of silver'.
An example to our children? You are the perfect example that anyone can be bought.

(Report Comment)
Elizabeth Bennett January 4, 2011 | 2:29 p.m.

Haven't the breathing-disabled been accommodated 98% in this instance? Have all the stairs been eliminated and ramps put in to accomodate wheelchairs? Is all signage also executed in Braille to accomodate the blind? I'd like to know just how far the breathing-impaired will have to be accomodated before the public begins to demand that THEY do something to control their disability?

California and Puerto Rico have (after Utah) the lowest smoking rates in the country. Yet they have the highest incidence (and climbing) of asthma. At some point, asthmatics need to find their own solutions to their disability.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 4, 2011 | 2:41 p.m.

Just wow. And at some point blind people will have to learn how to see! People in wheelchairs will have to grow legs! The mid west has one of the highest proportions of stupid people and it is still climbing! And at some point thoughtless people will have to address their lack of insight.

I'm going to read ALL of YOUR comments. This ought to be better than Trib talk.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Hansen January 4, 2011 | 3:00 p.m.

I suspect someone has been reading Pride and Prejudice lately.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall January 4, 2011 | 3:01 p.m.

This is about way more than the "breathing impaired" and making accommodations for such. Secondhand smoke has been shown in study after study to be dangerous for ALL who come in contact with it.

When we outlawed it in Columbia the howls from the bar owners were loud and centered on how it should never have been passed because it did not go to a citizen vote. But then it went to a citizen vote in Jeff and the bar owners howled because it wasn't fair to entrust the decision to citizens.

Truth is, whether in bars or restaurants or blocking the doors into the library, secondhand smoke is a noxious health hazard. If those who smoke want to kill themselves that's their issue, but they don't need to share the wealth. And though I dislike some politicians, I would not wish a smoker's death on a single one of them. Ever.

(Report Comment)
Martin Pion January 6, 2011 | 5:35 p.m.

Melissa Blank January 4, 2011 | 1:24 p.m."As a former tour guide, and an asthma sufferer, I can attest to the "we can do as we please" mentality. As a former state employee, I was unable to perfom my job at times because the smoke was so bad. When I tried to file a complaint, I was told no one would do anything about it, for fear the legislators would retaliate! I saw several children on the tours have asthma attacks as well!"

Melissa, I read your comment above with interest and I'd appreciate you're contacting me at mpion (at sign) swbell.net to discuss your bad experiences. We filed an ADA complaint against the State Capitol which brought about minor additional improvements in 1996 but legislators believe themselves to be above the law and some of the leaders are also smokers so it's a tough nut to crack.
www.mogasp.wordpress.com

(Report Comment)
Martin Pion January 6, 2011 | 5:48 p.m.

Paul Austin wrote on January 4, 2011 | 1:29 p.m: "Gee, Mr. Pion, Nice to now you can lecture others to your perverted sense of morality. Perhaps you can add a link to page 6 of your noxious online rag where they'd see your Exec Dooley accepting 7.5 million:
http://mogasp.files.wordpress.com/2010/0......
of Obamacare stimulus money to educate us yokels. Time to call Pam Walker for your 'thirty pieces of silver'.
An example to our children? You are the perfect example that anyone can be bought."
Facts do matter, Mr. Austin, but you are happy to ignore them. MoGASP has no paid staff or offices and won't receive any of this funding. I do this from my home office and have been actively pursuing smoke-free air since 1984.
Missouri is 10 years behind more progressive states on this issue and it's a hard slog. We're even behind Illinois now, which a few years ago enacted a comprehensive statewide Smoke Free Indoor Air law.
The Missouri state Capitol is an egregious example of why: Tobacco still rules there, although it's changing.

(Report Comment)
Martin Pion January 6, 2011 | 6:55 p.m.

Elizabeth Bennett January 4, 2011 | 2:29 p.m. wrote: Haven't the breathing-disabled been accommodated 98% in this instance? ... At some point, asthmatics need to find their own solutions to their disability."
Ms. Bennett, severely affected smoke-sensitive asthmatics don't deliberately expose themselves to secondhand smoke. When they are for any reason, it can be quite traumatic and even life-threatening. Why should an asthmatic who wants to visit the state Capitol for any reason have to worry about having an asthma attack because some legislators insist on smoking in the building?
Come to that, why should a smoke-sensitive employees have to put up with this as a condition of employment? Answer: They shouldn't have to.
All other state-owned or state-occupied buildings are smoke-free. Why not the State Capitol?
Legislators act like they should be exempt from laws that apply to the rest of us. It's time that changed.
www.mogasp,.wordpress,.com

(Report Comment)
Paul Austin January 6, 2011 | 8:29 p.m.

Martin Pion January 6, 2011 | 5:48 p.m. wrote:
Facts do matter, Mr. Austin, but you are happy to ignore them. MoGASP has no paid staff or offices and won't receive any of this funding. I do this from my home office and have been actively pursuing smoke-free air since 1984.
Missouri is 10 years behind more progressive states on this issue and it's a hard slog. We're even behind Illinois now, which a few years ago enacted a comprehensive statewide Smoke Free Indoor Air law.
The Missouri state Capitol is an egregious example of why: Tobacco still rules there, although it's changing.
Whether MoGASP is the recipient of Dr. Walkers taxpayer windfall is debatable and I take your word for it since, as we all know, only conservatives are adept at public money laundering. I'll wait until the FOIA request comes in.
As to Illinois, your counterpart, Kathy Drea didn't seem to fare very well in the Nov. 29 exchange with Rep Cunningham. Then again, perhaps you're referring to the 1.5 billion bond sale backed by future MSA payments to pay 2010 bills. As long as sales don't drop 3% or more, though.
As to ignoring, I and many would prefer to, if it were not the continuing harangue of those whose livelihoods, reputations, and careers depended on this single substance repression campaign and their sycophants who perpetuate these sideshows ala "Platos puppet showman".
Lastly, threats and/or acts of retaliation within the MO merit system are covered by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights located in Jefferson City. While ADA may or may not cover this situation, a recent case involving Scott Eckersly vs. the previous administration resulted in a large monetary award and policy change(s).
Chronic ideological myopia is a terrible disease, Mr. Pion....especially between the ears.

(Report Comment)
Dean Andersen January 26, 2011 | 10:32 a.m.

So anyone who thinks many of our legislators are not bought off by the tobacco industry should see this Senate Resolution designating JOHN BRITTON a State Recognized Smoking Area anywhere on the Senate Side of the capital. Shouldn't our legislators make laws for the benefit of the people, and NOT individual big tobacco lobbiest?!

Fourteenth Day – Thursday, January 26 1995

Senator Staples offered the following resolution, which was read and adopted:

SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 112

WHEREAS, the State Senate as the upper chamber of the Missouri’s legislative branch of government is by its constitutional makeup and 175-year history of excellence and tradition an older and distinctly more deliberative body; and

WHEREAS, the culmination of this legislative chamber’s rich heritage and distinguished tradition is manifested through a cooperative harmony of elected Senators, dedicated staff, and selflessly involved honorary citizens endeavoring in the common goal of the public good; and...

WHEREAS, This distinguished citizen and soldier displayed uncommon valor and courage as a 19 –year-old paratrooper fighting for freedom as a member of this nation’s elite 101st Airborne Division; and...

WHEREAS, his matchless bravery and courage in helping defeat the Axis powers were displayed when he was shot by ruthless Nazis after leaving the safety of his camp in the face of the enemy during a mission to locate dry matches to light his cigarette; and...

WHEREAS, this distinguished citizen has served as an exemplary family man and devoted father of nine children; and

WHEREAS, his love and concern, warmth and compassion for other living things extends even to the smallest of creatures such as his trusty and distinguished cat Molly – a warm, fuzzy and devoted pet of 19 years; and

WHEREAS, this distinguished citizen is easily discernible in the halls of the state capital as the head of a triumvirate of associates, Jennifer, Tom and an ever-present trail of smoke; and...

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this Missouri Senate of the First Regular Session of the 88th Missouri General Assembly do convey through the full power and force of this courtesy resolution that for the remainder of his natural life, where ever he may roam on the East side of the Missouri State Capital, that the person and immediate area surrounding JOHN BRITTON shall forthwith, immediately and forever more be declared an official Missouri State Senate Designated Smoking Area.

(Report Comment)

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