Lawmakers Continue to Light Up Inside Capitol Despite Smoking Ban
JEFFERSON CITY - It's illegal to smoke in state buildings, but Missouri lawmakers can still light up inside their offices at the state Capitol.
For years, cities, counties, and other public places have started banning smoking in an attempt to prevent health problems linked to second hand smoke.
"I enjoy going out to dinner a lot more knowing I'm not going to reek someone else's cigarette smoke and food just taste better and people are healthier," Columbia resident Dana Bocke said.
In January 2011, Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, went smoke free. Residents voted to ban smoking in all bars, restaurants and in all state buildings. The only state building that had an exemption to the law was the capitol building itself.
"We should be a 100 percent smoke-free workplace like other state office buildings are," State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford, D- St.Louis said.
While others stand at least 20 feet away to light up, politicians can take a smoke in their own offices.
"I think that to be fair, if a ban is going to put on smoking in public buildings, then a ban should be put on all public buildings," Rolla resident Clayton Price said.
Some lawmakers noted that offices in the Capitol building are private. Other lawmakers think differently and said offices are actually public, but said if lawmakers were to ban smoking in Capitol offices it would take away personal liberty and freedom. They also said it's too much government intrusion.
"The members' offices [are] open and that lawmaker can either answer for what he does in his office or not answer for what he does in his office. If he has constituents that come in there and they're offended by the smoke in that office, that's that lawmaker responsibility," State Representative Darrell Pollock, R-Lebanon said.
Oxford disagrees and said she thinks legislators are getting special privileges.
"I think it's an inappropriate signal for legislators to send that we do not have to follow rules that other states employees follow," Oxford said.
Smoking is banned in the chamber, hallways and lounge behind the House in the Capitol.
"I'm kind of a personal choice, even though I do not smoke, if a member chooses to smoke in his own office and it's not affecting other people, I really don't have a issue with that," Pollock said.
Some members and residents said smoking is a personal choice, but the choice to smoke in a public building should be banned.
"I think that in general lawmakers should live by the rules that they set down for the people they govern," Price said.
According to Missouri's no state smoking policy, lawmakers seem to violate this piece of legislation. "Smoking is prohibited inside all buildings exclusively occupied by the state of Missouri regardless of whether the building is owned or leased by the state."
"They're setting a standard for everyone else in other state buildings and setting a different standard for themselves," Price said.
According to No Smoke.org, Missouri is one of twelve states that still allows smoking in its Capitol building.