COLUMBIA — The Boone Liberty Coalition, whose members fought a losing battle against Columbia’s smoking ban, has sent a formal request to the mayor and other members of the City Council asking that they repeal the ban and replace it with a new ordinance.
The alternative plan, modeled after the “Gregali bill” that the coalition said was considered in St. Louis, would require businesses to post signs stating whether they prohibit, allow or restrict smoking in their establishments. The coalition sent the proposal to the council on Monday.
The idea isn’t likely to go far, though, given the initial reaction from council members.
“That’s totally not sufficient,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said. “It’s like a restaurant posting they aren’t following sanitary codes.”
Hoppe added: “I see it as a health issue.”
Mayor Darwin Hindman has been steadfast in his support of the smoking ban, repeatedly saying that concerns for the public health trump those about the economy. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala has said the same.
On Wednesday, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said he’d be surprised if the council would vote to repeal the ban. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser predicted the coalition’s request would go nowhere.
“I don’t think there is political will on the council at this time to repeal,” Nauser said.
Members of the Boone Liberty Coalition could not be reached for comment, but their letter to the council outlined several rationale for their proposal. They noted the recent closings of several bars and restaurants whose owners blamed the smoking ban for lost business and said those closings have resulted in lost jobs for working-class citizens. They also claimed that “the health impacts of secondhand smoke are minimal at best.”
The letter also references a recent study by Michael Pakko of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He found that the smoking ban is responsible for a 5 percent decline in sales tax revenue from Columbia dining establishments.
“There may be some problems with separating tax dollars from restaurants and the smoking ban itself,” said Skala said in reference to the report.
The letter comes on the heels of failed petition attempt to force a repeal of the smoking ban onto a citywide ballot. Petitioners submitted thousands of signatures to the city clerk, but many were found to be invalid and the petition fell short. While supporters of the petition drive pledged to appeal to the council to put the matter on the ballot anyway, they never came forward.