Smokers Want Proof Ban is Effective and Enforced
COLUMBIA - It's been 7 years since Columbia city council banned smoking in bars and restaurants and some local smokers want proof that the ban is being enforced and improving health.
The Columbia Health Department has had a total of 137 complaints since the ordinance amendment took affect in 2007, but less than 25 of those complaints were filed after 2007.
The council members who supported the ban said it would improve health for the community while dining out.
Pastor Reverend Larry Barnes, 61, said he has been smoking since he was 11 years old and said he thinks the ban is an infringement on his rights.
"If I come in your establishment and want to have a cigarette with my meal I think I have the right to, just like someone else has the right not to," Barnes said.
Barnes said he needs to see facts that prove the ordinance is improving the community's health before he will support it.
"I'd like to see the statistics on those who have died from secondhand smoke then and now," Barnes said.
The Missouri Department for Health and Human Services claims that more than 1,100 people a year die from second-hand smoke. However, the state did not provide KOMU 8 News with the data needed to prove the ban is working.
Stephen Concannon is a lawyer and is the coordinator for Student Legal Services at MU. He said he always keeps his inhaler close and recalls how second hand smoke used to affect him while dining out.
"I'd go in some restaurant before court, and you think well smokes not that bad," Concannon said. "But to an asthmatic if walk into a cloud of smoke, it can trigger your lungs closing up."
Concannon said he enjoys dining out and going to different entertainment venues more now that smokers are not allowed to smoke inside.
"When you get hit with a cloud of smoke, you're just done for the day or for the next 6 hours you're coughing and I just don't experience that when I'm out anymore," Concannon said.
He supports the ordinance and said the improvement to his health is all the evidence he needs.
"It has got to be a healthier environment for not only for the patrons but people who work 8 to 12 hour days in those environments as well," Concannon said. "Smokers can find an environment where they can smoke without it being around everybody."