NOTE: This article has been modified from its original posting.
Opponents of the proposed smoking ban may need only to persuade one more member of the City Council to stop legislation prohibiting smoking in most public places.
Three council members either oppose the ban or have concerns about the effects of the legislation. The good news for ban supporters is that there are a number of undecided members on the board.
Though they haven't set a date, the council will hear a report from the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health about the ban, which would prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants, bingo halls, bowling alleys and seating areas in arenas. Last month, the board added outdoor patios to the list.
All of the council members interviewed said that though they had not seen the Board of Health’s proposed ordinance, they had opinions on the issue.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said he hasn’t made up his mind, but has concerns about the ordinance.
“I would very much like to see all venues where the public can go visit be smoke-free,” Loveless said. “I just struggle with whether or not the city council should mandate that change.”
Fifth Ward councilwoman Laura Nauser said she is opposed to the ban.
“We have so many regulations in our life,” Nauser said. “I just feel it should be taken care of in the marketplace.”
During his March election campaign, Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said he probably wouldn’t vote for the proposal. Janku was unavailable for further comment.
At least one member, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, has publicly supported the ban. After attending a speech by former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders in Columbia, Hoppe told the Missourian she finalized her decision. She said Elders’ speech reinforced her belief that businesses would not lose money from the ban and it would not violate smokers’ civil liberties.
Other council members haven’t taken as strong of a stand. First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton said she doesn’t have any feelings either way and wants to hear all the arguments before making a decision.
Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton said he is also undecided.
“My feelings are that I can go either way,” Hutton said, “which is putting me on the head-hunters list for both sides.”
Hutton said that in making a decision he will weigh individual property rights, the effects of secondhand smoke and the role of employees. Hutton said he would be comfortable with the council voting on the ban or sending the issue to the voters.
Nauser said she is unsure about how the council will handle the proposal because it has not yet discussed the issue as a council. The council’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. June 5 at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.