Sedalia City Council Considers Public Smoking Ban

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SEDALIA - The Sedalia City Council is mulling whether or not to ban smoking in public places after announcing in April it would draft an ordinance to make the public health policy change.

At a work session on April 29, the council presented a draft ordinance to ban smoking in all enclosed public places, restaurants, bars, city buildings, parks and in some outdoor public places near buildings.

Ward 1 Councilman Stephen Galliher said he has heard more from supporters of the ban than he has from opponents. A survey conducted by the Sedalia Democrat found 73 percent of respondents supported the ban while 27 percent oppose it. Coincidentally, an estimated 27 percent of Pettis County residents smoke.

Jeanean Sieving, a nurse at Pettis County Health Center, has joined a number of community health professionals advocating for a public smoking ban. Sieving works with Clean Air Sedalia, an organization formed five years ago to push for a ban.

"I think it should make our people that live in Sedalia healthier," Sieving said. "It should help with establishing levels of less carcinogens in the air, so we will have healthier people, healthier children, less cancer."

Owners at establishments like End Zone, a bar and grill located on West Broadway, oppose the plan. Some Sedalia restaurants voluntarily ban smoking while others like the End Zone still allow patrons to smoke indoors. The restaurant has ash trays on the tables and even has a vending machine selling cigarettes.

Carla Crain, a manager at End Zone, said people like to be able to drink alcohol and smoke at the same establishment. Crain said as a non-smoker working in an establishment with smoking, she realizes individuals can have a choice in whether or not to enter a restaurant for health reasons.

"We have a big percentage of our business that is people that smoke," Crain said. "I feel it should be up to the person whether or not they want to come into the establishment."

The debate over public smoking has surfaced in other communities statewide recently, as groups opposing a ban in St. Charles County were successful in challenging a proposal to ban smoking in the county. A judge ruled the issue had to be removed from the November 2012 ballot.

The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Second hand smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals and more than 250 are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. This evidence has led many state and local governments to look into banning or restricting public smoking to ensure a healthier population.

In Mid-Missouri, Columbia voters passed the area's first ban in 2006 and Jefferson City and Fulton followed in 2010. Nineteen cities in Missouri have banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

In an air quaility study of restaurants in Sedalia in 2010, the MU School of Medicine found fewer than 1.5 cigarettes burn on average at any given time in Sedalia restaurants allowing smoking. The study found less than two cigarettes cause the air to be rated "un-healthy" by EPA standards and found air pollution was three times higher in restaurants with smoking than in restaurants without. The study also found full-time employees in smoking areas are exposed to 111 percent more air pollution than they should be according to EPA standards.

Crain disputes that finding and said as many as 90 percent of her customers are smoking at any given time at the restaurant and said a smoking ban could hurt the bar business in Sedalia. Despite the health risks posed by second-hand smoke, Crain said businesses should have a right to choose whether or not to allow smoking.

Mindy Stepp has worked as a waitress for more than a year at the End Zone. She's a smoker and said she does not mind others smoking in her workplace.

"I think smoking is a right," Stepp said. "Some people if they don't want to smoke then we do have an outside patio where they can sit out there for non-smoking."

Sieving said businesses already have to comply with health codes and other regulations and it should not be considered unreasonable for the city to ban smoking.

She points out that people are happy about regulations that keep their food safe and the kitchens clean.

"So we should really be just as happy we can go in a smoke free environment and be healthy when we go in there and eat."

The Sedalia City Council will hold another work session to address the issue on May 13 and will vote on the issue in June.